Armenia-Iran-Azerbaijan: "war" of transport corridors. Commentary from Yerevan
Armenia is discussing new prospects that have appeared in the country as a result of the aggravation of Iranian-Azerbaijani relations caused by the tension around the Tehran-Yerevan transit road. Iran and Armenia are launching an alternative large-scale transport project “Persian Gulf – Black Sea”, which involves transit along the Iran-Armenia-Georgia route and excludes the participation of Azerbaijan and Turkey in it.
Analysis of the current situation from Armenia.
- Will Armenia open its airspace to Azerbaijan? Views from Baku and Yerevan
- “Tehran is watching closely.” What will happen to cargo transportation from Iran to Armenia
- Aggravation of relations between Azerbaijan and Iran – what’s happening?
Risk of war? Iranian exercises on the border with Azerbaijan – and parallel Azerbaijani-Turkish exercises
From mid-September 2021, Tehran began to pull an impressive amount of heavy military equipment to the areas bordering with Azerbaijan and announced the start of military exercises.
Tehran does not provide essential information about their scope and purpose. But from the numerous videos that ordinary users are leaking into the social media, it seems that the redeployments are large-scale. Not only tanks and armored personnel carriers, standard for exercises, but also multiple launch rocket systems, anti-aircraft missile systems, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles and guided aircraft have been pulled to the border.
The exercises also take place in parallel near the border with the Azerbaijani autonomy-exclave of Nakhichevan. At the same time, there and almost simultaneously – but on the other side of the border – joint Turkish-Azerbaijani exercises began.
Many experts in the region, including in Armenia, began to discuss the threat of the outbreak of hostilities between Azerbaijan and Iran.
Iranian Foreign Ministry accuses Azerbaijan of becoming a “springboard for Israel”
Baku and Tel Aviv have been closely cooperating in the military sphere for more than ten years. Israel sells its UAVs to Azerbaijan, and has also established a joint production of UAVs in this country.
In response, the Iranian authorities openly accuse Azerbaijan of becoming a springboard for Israel. Tehran claims that there are Israeli military specialists on the territory of Azerbaijan.
In the same days, Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian visited Moscow, where he held talks with his Russian counterpart. There he also declared “the unacceptability of the Zionist regime on its borders”.
Azerbaijan confirms that it buys weapons from Israel and refutes the Iranian side’s claims about the presence of Israeli military specialists in Karabakh.
The road through the south of Armenia as the main cause of the aggravation
In Armenia, many experts agree that the main reason for the aggravation was the issue of control over the main road that leads from Iran to Armenia and through which up to 40% of the cargoes vital for Armenian economy are delivered. This involves a small section of this road between the Armenian cities of Kapan and Goris. The 20-kilometer stretch here passes through territory that returned under Azerbaijan’s control after the second Karabakh war.
In mid-September, Azerbaijan announced that Iranian trailers were carrying cargo and fuel along this road not only to Armenia, but also to that part of Karabakh, which is under the control of Russian peacekeepers. Calling it unacceptable, Azerbaijan established a police and customs checkpoints on this section of the road.
Azerbaijan then started to demand payment of customs duties from Iranian drivers for crossing the Azerbaijani border. Azerbaijan also arrested two Iranian drivers on charges of illegal traffic on its territory.
This caused an outrage in Iran and was seen by its leadership as a direct challenge.
The situation escalated very quickly. The other side was openly criticized by the President of Azerbaijan and the spiritual leader of Iran.
“Zangezur Corridor” – from Turkey to Azerbaijan through the territory of Armenia
Armenia believes that complications on the Iran-Armenia highway were created by Azerbaijan in order to force it to agree to the implementation of the Zangezur corridor project, important for Baku – a road through the territory of Armenia, which would pass from Turkey to Azerbaijan, through its autonomy Nakhichevan – an exclave that is currently surrounded by the lands of Armenia.
Armenia’s categorically negative position on this project has already been repeatedly stated: Azerbaijan will not get a road through the territory of Armenia, which will not be under the control of Yerevan.
The same position was repeated in Tehran by Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, who went there on a visit against the background of the Iranian-Azerbaijani aggravation.
Mirzoyan also reiterated that Azerbaijan does not fulfill the clauses of the November 9 agreement on the cessation of hostilities in Karabakh and is actually putting forward new demands.
Yerevan appeals to the text of the trilateral ceasefire agreement signed on November 10, 2020 (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Russia), and states that this document refers to the unblocking of communications in the region, but does not mention any corridor.
“We talked about the so-called“ Zangezur Corridor ”, that is, about the absence of such a topic. We stated that there is no such topic and there cannot be such a topic”, Ararat Mirzoyan said after his visit to Iran.
Alternative route: “Persian Gulf – Black Sea”, from Iran to Armenia and Georgia
Armenia and Iran see the solution to the problem in the development of an alternative transport route, which will exclude the territory of Azerbaijan. The latest official reports of both countries talk about the joint implementation of the “Persian Gulf – Black Sea” project, which will pass through the territory of Iran, Armenia and Georgia and should become an outlet for India and China to the European market.
“An alternative transit route [Tatev-Kapan road – JAMnews] for Iranian trucks in Armenia will be paved as early as next month. And there will no longer be a need to use the previous road that passes through Azerbaijan, but he requires us to pay duties”, Iranian Deputy Transport Minister Heyrollh Khademi said, Iranian state agency IRNA reported on October 8.
“Build roads and eliminate the blockade”
“Armenia must exclude any option that might imply a blockade. Any communication that will run through the territory of Armenia must be under the control of Armenia. Secondly, Yerevan should do everything possible to develop the Iran-Armenia-Georgia route, which will give us new communication opportunities”, political scientist Emil Ordukhanyan believes.
This direction is called the North-South route and its implementation began several years ago, but received real opportunities only at the beginning of the summer of 2021, when it was provided with significant financial support by the European Union.
The northern part of this road – from the side of Georgia, for the most part is paved. The most large-scale and labor-intensive part remains – the southern one. The European Union provided financing of 600 million euros for the construction this section, t.
“Iran is going to enter the Caucasus exclusively through Armenia and Georgia, bypassing Baku and Ankara. Thus, Tehran also emphasizes the important role of Yerevan for diversifying its supplies”says Iranian scholar Zhanna Vardanyan.