Staunton, November 10 – At the very end of an article on the way in which the armistice in the South Caucasus has affected geopolitics, Svetlana Gamova, who is in charge of the department of Nezavisimay gazeta that tracks developments in the former Soviet space, makes an extremely important declaration (ng.ru/cis/2020-11-10/1_8010_scenario.html).
She says that the tripartite declaration ending the fighting sets the stage for “the unblocking of all economic and transportation links between the western districts of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomy.” These routes will be “controlled by Russian peacekeepers” to ensure that they are kept open through what is Armenia’s Zengezur region.
But then Gamova adds, “besides, it is planned to ensure the construction of new transportation links which connecting the main territory of Azerbaijan with the Nakhchivan Autonomy,” the clearest indication coming out of Moscow so far that what might have been a limited, one-road arrangement between the two will now be something far larger.
This is far less that the complete transfer of Zengezur to Azerbaijani control that the author of these lines talked about almost 30 years ago and that Turkish and Azerbaijani analysts have promoted on occasion in the years since (reliefweb.int/report/armenia/how-goble-plan-was-born-and-how-it-remains-political-factor).
If the Kremlin has given assurances on this point, it would go a long way to explain why Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkey agreed to this ceasefire when the Azerbaijani army was so close to total victory in the occupied territories, all the more so because Russia has been quite clear that it would help defend Armenia as such, including Zengezur.
If the Nakchivan-Azerbaijan corridor is in fact widened and deepened to include not only a modernized highway but potentially rail and pipeline routes as well, that will fulfill many of the aspirations of those in Baku and Ankara who had hoped for a complete transfer by creating facts on the ground that will promote what might be called “sovereignty lite” for Azerbaijan.
That will inevitably allow Turkey to increase its presence and influence in Azerbaijan and Central Asia. But precisely because of that effect, it will be negatively received in Yerevan and Tehran, even though Gamov’s words suggest that Russia at the highest levels, that is Vladimir Putin, has given his approval for it.
At the very least, this expansion in the Azerbaijan-Nakhchevan corridor is likely to become the flashpoint for the next round of fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia, possibly with some new players and with old ones forced into very different alliances than the ones they thought they had before this last round.