Azerbaijan to build road to Nakhichevan bypassing Armenia
Azerbaijan to build road to Nakhichevan
Azerbaijan has agreed with Iran on the construction of a transport corridor to its exclave – Nakhichevan, bypassing Armenia. Railway and motor roads in this corridor will pass only 5 kilometers from the border of Armenia.
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An official delegation from Iran headed by the Minister of Roads and Urban Development paid a visit to Azerbaijan. During the visit, a memorandum was signed between the two countries on the construction of a transport corridor between the main part of Azerbaijan and its exclave, the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic, through the territory of the Islamic Republic.
The transport corridor, which will consist of railways, roads and power lines, will run just 5 kilometers from the southern border of Armenia.
What about the Zangezur corridor?
On January 11, 2021, at a meeting of the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia in Moscow, a tripartite statement was adopted, providing for the opening of all communications between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
One of the main points in this project was the Zangezur corridor, which was supposed to connect the main part of Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan, and also serve as a transport line for rail and road communication between Armenia and Russia.
The Zangezur corridor was also considered as one of the ways of direct communication between Turkey and the countries of the region. Iran has also expressed interest in this project.
Zangezur vs Lachin corridors
More than once, Azerbaijani officials, including President Ilham Aliyev, have drawn parallels between the Zangezur and Lachin corridors.
According to the Azerbaijani side, if the Lachin corridor connects Armenia with the part of Karabakh where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily stationed, then the main part of Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan should be connected by the Zangezur corridor with a similar status.
“If there is no Zangezur corridor, then there will be no Lachin corridor”, the Azerbaijani side claims.
The Armenian side does not agree with this approach, and flatly refuses the term “corridor”, preferring to call it “road”. Armenia also insists on its sovereignty over the Zangezur corridor, and puts forward the conditions for customs and border control on this road by Armenia itself.
Situation in Karabakh
In recent days, the situation around the part of Karabakh, where the Russian peacekeeping contingent is temporarily stationed, has become tense.
According to the Armenian side, for the fifth day in Khankendi (Armenians call this city Stepanakert – JAMnews) there is no natural gas. According to local sources, there was a rupture in the gas pipeline supplying fuel from Armenia. The rupture site is located in the territory controlled by the Azerbaijani armed forces, and so far it has not been possible to obtain permission to repair the gas pipeline. There are also reports of power outages in Khankendi and adjacent settlements.
At the same time, the ceasefire regime has been violated in this region dozens of times every day in recent days. The parties blame each other for this.
The Armenian side also reports on the calls of the Azerbaijani side to the local population to leave these settlements.
The Azerbaijani media recently published information about the withdrawal of part of the Russian peacekeeping forces from Karabakh.
Azerbaijani experts call the actions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in Karabakh “elements of a hybrid war.”
According to the head of the Azerbaijani analytical center Atlas, Elkhan Shahinoglu, the signing of a memorandum with Iran on the creation of new communication routes between the main part of Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan is an “interesting move”.
“This is the message of official Baku to Armenia and Russia that Azerbaijan will use an alternative option due to the delay in the decision on the Zangezur corridor.
This option is also useful for Iran, which will increase its participation in the region and receive additional profit.
The benefit for Azerbaijan is that Armenia again remains out of the game, economic ties with its southern neighbor are strengthening.
But this alternative option has its own issues that raise questions. Today, dialogue and cooperation prevail between Tehran and Baku, and what if there will be tension, as it was quite recently?
If some centers in Iran do not interfere in the internal affairs and decisions of Azerbaijan, then there will be no problems and the use of communications will benefit both sides”, Shahinoglu said.
“The memorandum on the creation of new communication lines between Eastern Zangezur and Nakhichevan through the territory of Iran is a new regional economic direction in the post-conflict period”, political observer Agshin Karimov believes.
Now the most urgent question is whether the Zangezur corridor through Armenia losing its relevance? I will say this, it entirely depends on the position of Armenia.
So far, Azerbaijan’s position is such that a parallel structure is being created through the territory of Iran. But this does not exclude the construction of another corridor through Armenia. An extensive system of paths is being created.
But of course, with this project, Azerbaijan receives a new instrument of pressure on Armenia. In the future, the manipulative capabilities of Armenia are not only decreasing, they are disappearing.
The logic of Azerbaijan can be expressed in four points:
- The new road does not negate the relevance of the Zangezur corridor;
- If the Zangezur corridor loses relevance, there will be an alternative road;
- If the road through Iran operates without alternative, the principle of Azerbaijan “Without the Zangezur corridor, there is no Lachin corridor” will come into force;
- Thus, the Lachin corridor will lose its status, and Armenia will lose its connection with Karabakh.
And what if Armenia agrees to the construction of the Zangezur corridor on Azerbaijan’s terms? In this case, the road through Iran will be connected to this corridor and another transport branch will appear.
In any scenario, Azerbaijan has practically proved that Armenia, in case of disagreement with the new realities, will remain outside of regional projects.
In this regard, it is noteworthy that the new road to Nakhichevan lies only 5 kilometers from the southern border of Armenia.
This project was prepared in cooperation with Turkey, and creates a new economic hub of Azerbaijan-Turkey-Iran cooperation.
Apparently, Russia also agrees with the new economic configuration in the region. The reason for this can be called the Kremlin’s disagreement with the “balancing policy” of Yerevan, and Moscow supports projects that deprive Armenia of room for maneuver. Because Russia has completely different plans for Armenia.
And what forced Iran to increase the level of cooperation with Azerbaijan and move away from Armenia? I think it has to do with security issues. Tehran’s strategists understand that in the boiling world geopolitical situation there are threats to the Islamic Republic as well.
And in such a situation, Tehran prefers to position itself next to Baku and Ankara”, Kerimov said.