(By Special Correspondent in Baku, Azerbaijan): –
Dr Shahid Qureshi British election observer and Chief Editor of The London Post met with H.E. Dr Garayev Aboulfas Mursal Oglu, Minister for Culture and Tourism Republic of Azerbaijan in his office in the centre of Baku.
“Azerbaijan is connected by rail and road links with local regions and also international rail and road links, said the Minister. He was talking exclusively to Dr Shahid Qureshi Chief Editor of The London Post.
Minister said: “Azerbaijan is connected with Iran, Georgia and Russia via road and rail links also known as North – South Rail Network. We have rail link with Baku-Tbilisi which take about 6-7 hours.
“We have gas pipelines connections going towards Europe as well as other destinations said the Minister.
He said: Azerbaijan Rail link is connected with the Iranian sea port of Bandar Abbas. That is to increase trade links with rest of the world. We are also connected via fibre optic high-speed internet links.
Azerbaijan is also on China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), connecting the countries by road and rail for trade.
He said: “we are building more three stars and low-cost hotels in Baku and regions to improve tourism in Azerbaijan and increase the capacity”. He said: we have 6 international airports in the country now.
“Cargo passing from China to Europe is estimated to be around 240 million tons per year, and Azerbaijan is looking to collect a fee from having some of it pass through the country via the Chinese trade route, once dubbed “One Belt, One Road,” or OBOR.
The BRI could span over 60 countries, stretching from the Pacific to as far as Portugal, via road, rail, and maritime routes that the Chinese are hoping to bring online as a 21st century variant of the ancient Silk Road. Some experts put the cost of the project at $1 trillion.
Azerbaijani authorities have been eyeing the route as a way to showcase heavy investments made in recent years in the country’s infrastructure, particularly railroads and ports located on the western shores of the Caspian Sea.
In October 2016, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway line was launched, linking Azerbaijan to its western neighbours Georgia and Turkey. The line bypasses Russia, and Azerbaijan’s western neighbour and foe Armenia, and helps reduce the transportation time of goods leaving China and headed to Europe by as much as two week.
Thirty-Five Chinese cities are linked to 28 countries in Europe via 16 rail routes, and dispatch freight trains to Europe daily. Azerbaijan looks well-poised to plug into that.
The initial capacity of the railway is estimated at between three and five million tons of cargo during its first three years of operation, while by the fifth year experts expect it to reach between six and eight million tons, as well as move three million passengers. At its height in 2023, around 17 million tons of cargo is expected to pass along the BTK’s rails.
Freight traveling between China and Europe by rail is on the rise, given the risks involved with sea transport and the high price of air cargo. Traffic via rail had quintupled in weight from 2013 to 2016, and as of December of last year China sent 375 freight trains to Europe – more than one per day on average – which was a 69 percent increase from 2016 figures.”
On cultural activity minister said: “we believe in inter cultural dialogue and we are having a big event Baku Press Forum (Inter Cultural Dialogue) next year in 2019”.
The minister invited Dr Shahid Qureshi at an event at the Baku Carpet Museum in the centre of town by the Caspian Sea.