EU Urges Armenia’s Inclusion in Strategic Railway Project

YEREVAN (Zaman)–The European Union has recommended the inclusion of Armenia in the strategic Baku-Akhalkalak-Kars railway project, which was launched on Wednesday at a ceremony in Georgia with the participation of the presidents of Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey.
"During the High Level Group exercise on the definition of extensions of the Trans-European Transport network to neighboring countries and regions, the European Commission position was to support development of existing trans-national transport axis and not to create new parallel lines like the Baku-Akhalkalak-Kars link, which would furthermore bypass Armenia," said Benita Ferrero-Waldner, EU commissioner for external relations and European neighborhood policy.
Remarks by the EU commissioner came as a response to questions addressed to the commission by Ioannis Kasoulides, a Greek Cypriot member of the European Parliament, who asked whether there were any measures underway to re-open the Kars-Gumri railway and whether the EC will abstain from financing and granting political support to the construction of the new railway line bypassing Armenia.
"In the final report of the group, the Transport Corridor Europe Caucasus Asia (TRACECA) axis was retained as the main trans-national axis for the Caucasus, which connects all the countries in the region and does not isolate Armenia," Ferrero-Waldner said. "The commission has not changed its position since then."
"The commission continues, in line with the European Neighborhood Policy, to promote regional cooperation for transport in the framework of consensus among ENP partners," Ferrero Waldner said. "The EC financial assistance provided or to be provided under the TRACECA program, will not therefore support any operation related to the Kars-Ahalkalak-Tbilisi link. The commission is also passing a similar message to the various financial institutions active in the region, such as the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and the European Investment Bank."
The Baku-Akhalkalak-Kars project, expected to cost $420 million, will see 29 kilometers of rail built in Georgia and 76 kilometers in Turkey. The railway is expected to be completed by the end of 2008 and will initially have the capacity to transport up to 5 million tons of cargo a year. The railway will link Baku, Tbilisi and the Turkish city of Kars, bypassing Russia, to allow goods to be shipped through the South Caucasus region to Turkey and on to Western Europe.

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