As Turkey continues to look east for trade, amid deteriorating ties with the US and European Union, its role in China’s Belt and Road Initiative is picking up steam.
On Monday, the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars rail line officially opened, a development that will reduce the time for goods to reach Europe from the Far East from 25-30 days to just 15 days, as the Times of London reports. The route contributes to a network that is twice as fast as routes by sea and half the price of air cargo.
Turkish President Recep Erdogan said at the opening ceremony in Baku, Azerbaijan, that the railway had a freight capacity of 6.5 million tonnes a year, which will rise to 17 million by 2034. Ahmet Arslan, Turkey’s transport minister, hailed the railway as “the missing link between the European and Asian transport corridors.”
The new trade link will help Ankara decrease its dependence on Europe, its largest trading partner, as part of an ongoing political pivot eastward. Facing increased criticism from Western countries, President Erdogan said earlier this month of Europe “we have no need for you.”
Indeed, Turkey is set to benefit from its burgeoning economic relationship with China, as Asia Unhedged has reported, and has signaled its shifting alignment both with its pending deal to acquire a Russian missile defense system and its stated desire to join the Shanghai Cooperation Organization.