Staunton, November 12 – Adil Karaismailoglu, Turkey’s minister for transportation and infrastructure, says that Ankara “plans to extend a railroad toward Nakhchivan” something that will require major infrastructure investment within Turkey but could ultimately connect that country to Azerbaijan if railways are repaired and built in the Zengezur corridor.
Karaismailoglu says that this is part of a 5.7 billion US dollar project involving the construction of new rail lines and ports, intended to unite the railways of Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan first of all through the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway and then via Nakhchivan (aa.com.tr/tr/ekonomi/ulastirma-ve-altyapi-bakani-karaismailoglu-5a-uydumuz-aralik-ayi-ortasinda-firlatilacak/2041039 and rbc.ru/politics/12/11/2020/5fad07149a7947f689ccce79).
According to the Turkish official, the decision to build a rail link with Nakhchivan was taken after the recent fighting there and will be realized as soon as preliminary investigations are completed. But in fact, this project has a long history. In 1992, Turkey built a bridge over the Arax into Nakhchivan; and in 2012, President Ilham Aliyev spoke about plans for such a line.
But this use of railways to project power has a much older history in this region extending back to the end of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th. Turkey with the support of Germany believed that if it built a rail line into the Arabian peninsula, both countries would be able to develop and maintain control there.
The line was not completed before both were defeated in World War I, but dreams of empires based on railways have never entirely dissipated because railways like highways and pipelines lock in regions together in ways that make them more difficult to separate, one of the reasons that such projects not only here but elsewhere have always been so controversial.