"Iranian Armed Forces will react if Baku seizes corridor in Armenia". Opinion from Yerevan
Iran’s position on the “Zangezur Corridor”
After the hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh and the mass exodus of Karabakh Armenians from their homeland, Azerbaijan and Turkey have once again started talking about the “Zangezur corridor”. The road through the south of Armenia, which will connect Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan, was so named by Ilham Aliyev. “I introduced the term “Zangezur corridor” into the geopolitical lexicon,” he once admitted. Armenian authorities have repeatedly stated that they are ready to unblock communications, categorically rejecting the term “corridor”. The explanation is that it means the loss of the country’s sovereign control over its territory.
The latest statements say that “Azerbaijan has no claim to these territories and recognizes them as Armenia’s sovereign territory”. At the same time, they demand “reliable guarantees” of uninterrupted traffic along this route. According to the Azerbaijani side, Russia should provide them.
Armenian experts are convinced that these statements do not mean that Baku and Ankara have given up their intention to get the corridor and will not resort to force to achieve this goal. Yerevan is actively discussing the possible reaction of international partners, particularly Iran, to such a scenario.
The Armenian-Iranian contacts that have intensified in recent days have also become an occasion for this. The Secretary of the Armenian Security Council met with the leadership of the country in Tehran. It is noteworthy that during the same period special representative of the Azerbaijani President Khalaf Khalafov was here.
According to Iranian news agency Irna, President Ibrahim Raisi during his meetings with both Grigoryan and Khalafov said: “The Zangezour corridor is a platform for NATO’s presence in the region and a threat to the countries’ national security, which the Islamic Republic categorically opposes.”
Meetings of the Secretary of the Armenian Security Council in Tehran
Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi received Armen Grigoryan and discussed bilateral relations and regional security issues.
“The sides emphasized that the principle of inviolability of borders should be respected and conflicts should be resolved through dialogue,” reports from Tehran said.
Grigoryan also met in Tehran with the foreign minister, the secretary of the Supreme National Security Council, and the chief of the Supreme Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces.
The official reports said that issues related to security and “respect for the territorial integrity of the countries of the region” were touched upon.
“Any geopolitical changes in the South Caucasus are unacceptable”
The Iranian President again declared the unacceptability of geopolitical changes in the region. This time he first reiterated Tehran’s position to Grigoryan, then to Khalafov.
According to Iranian media reports, Raisi emphasized that Iran is ready to support Armenia and Azerbaijan in settling relations through dialogue. He emphasized that any geopolitical changes in the Caucasus will harm the interests of the countries in the region. He also expressed confidence that they are capable of solving the existing problems for the sake of “preserving and strengthening stability in the Caucasus.”
At a briefing with journalists, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanaani noted that possible developments in the Caucasus region were discussed with the Armenian Security Council Secretary.
“Iran is in favor of the development of transport communications, which will be beneficial for all countries in the region, but is against changing international and geopolitical borders,” he said, answering a question about the so-called “Zangezur corridor.”
“Iran is ready to send observers to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border”
The Chief of Staff of Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Mohammad Hossein Bagheri, stated readiness to send observers to the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan at a meeting with Armen Grigoryan. As mehrnews reports, he stated:
“Improving the defense capabilities of any country should not imply any aggressive goals or intentions. Peace and tranquility in the region is in the interest of all countries. Security in the region should be provided by the countries of the region and the presence of extra-regional forces is contrary to peace in the region.”
Bagheri called for measures to settle the disputes and added that Iran is ready to contribute to reducing tensions in the region.
Iranianist Zhanna Vardanyan says the recent developments in Nagorno-Karabakh have caused concern in Iran:
“Media and expert circles in Iran say it is not excluded that after these events Azerbaijan and Turkey will target [Armenia’s southern province of] Syunik, especially as talk of the so-called ‘Zangezur corridor’ has intensified in Ankara and Baku in recent days.”
She recalls that in recent years Iran has repeatedly stated that it is in favor of unblocking transportation, but will not allow the change of borders.
According to the Iran expert, official Tehran has already announced to Turkish envoys and high-ranking officials that changing Armenia’s borders is a red line for Iran.
“It is not by chance that in the negotiations, the Iranian side offers to open a land route between Azerbaijan and Turkey through its territory. This is, in fact, proposed as an alternative to the so-called Zangezur corridor.”
Regarding its red lines, Iran “does not limit itself to diplomatic statements”, says Zhanna Vardanyan. In confirmation, she recalls that in recent years Iran has regularly conducted military exercises along the state border with Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are “a kind of warning signal” for Azerbaijan, Turkey and their allies. And now large-scale exercises are being planned again.
“At the moment it is difficult to predict what specific actions Iran will take in the future, but it is a fact that Tehran attaches significant importance to the security component and the factor of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.”
Journalist, political analyst Tatul Hakobyan believes that against the background of events in NK, the topic of “Zangezur corridor” has temporarily receded into the background.
However, this does not mean that “the threat and territorial harassment of Baku-Moscow-Ankara against the sovereign territory of Armenia” have been eliminated.
Tatul Hakobyan suggests that the Armenian authorities “give new content to relations with those states whose interests are not served by the existence of the corridor along the Arax River”. First of all, he means Iran.
Commenting on Tehran’s statement on sending observers to the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, he emphasizes that this is the first time Iran has publicly announced such an intention:
“Meanwhile, in the course of negotiations and private discussions, Iran expresses its desire to deploy armed forces in Syunik to protect the Armenian-Iranian border from the encroachments of the Russia-Turkey-Azerbaijan tandem.”
Claims that the Iranian president made such a proposal to the Armenian leadership in New York a year ago. Yerevan is not inclined to allow an Iranian military presence in Syunik, given some factors, but it should not be ruled out:
“In unofficial, closed discussions, Iran simply states that if Azerbaijan invades Armenian territory to seize the corridor, the Iranian armed forces, without asking anyone or waiting for anyone’s permission, will cross the Araxes and start hostilities against the invading troops in order to protect Iran’s vital interests.”
According to the analyst, besides Iran, the EU and the US are also interested in preserving Armenia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. But he emphasizes that the issue should be solved by the Armenian army and diplomacy.
Iran’s position on the “Zangezur Corridor”