Ilham Aliyev, Azerbaijan's President and First Lady Mehriban Aliyeva, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's President, and First Lady Emine Erdoğan, Bakytzhan Sagintayev, Kazakhstan's Prime Minister, Giorgi Kvirikashvili, Georgia's Prime Minister, Abdulla Aripov, Uzbekistan's Prime Minister, Tajikistan's and Turkmenistan's Ministers of Transport of as well as other high-level dignitaries attended this global initiative inauguration ceremony.
After the ceremony a symbolic driving of railroad spikes and the pulling of railroad switches took place, officially sending off the first cargo train along the BTK railway.
A guard of honor was set up for the Turkish president.
The rail link between Azerbaijan and Georgia was modernized under the project, which was launched in 2007.
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The new link will reduce journey times between China and Europe to around 15 days, which is more than twice as fast as the sea route at less than half the price of flying. It may be mentioned that sleeper-car trains will link Baku to Istanbul, providing a unique opportunity to tourists to see three countries (Turkey-Georgia-Azerbaijan) in one ticket. Based on current cargo flows the company said it expects to re-route at least two million tonnes of existing cargo flows (principally dry cargo now transported by truck) between Turkey, the Caucasus, Russia and Central Asia.
President Erdogan and Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev reviewed the guard of honor and saluted the Azerbaijani soldiers. A trade volume of $120 million is expected with this move and trade with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, which is an exclave in Azerbaijan bordering Armenia, Turkey and Iran, will be done in Turkish lira.
The line, which includes 105 km of new track, will have the capacity to transport one million passengers and 5 million tons of freight. "We also continue to cooperate in the military-technical field", the Azerbaijani president said.
A memorandum of understanding on signing a preferential trade agreement between the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey was signed by Azerbaijani Economy Minister Shahin Mustafayev and his Turkish counterpart Nihat Zeybekci.