Staunton, November 12 – The November 10 joint declaration of Armenia, Azerbaijan and the Russian Federation calls for “unblocking all economic and transportation routes in the region” and specifies that Armenia and the Russian border forces will guarantee links between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan (kremlin.ru/events/president/news/64384).
The opening of such a corridor has been a longtime goal of Azerbaijan, and some have even suggested that this was a major factor in Baku’s acceptance of the armistice deal with Armenia and of its willingness to have Russian peacekeepers there and in Karabakh itself (windowoneurasia2.blogspot.com/2020/11/moscow-oks-widening-and-deepening.html).
The declaration did not make any reference to Armenia’s goals in the event of unblocking of transportation routes, but now both Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have made clear that Yerevan expects the opening of routes for its use to Iran via Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan (kavkaz-uzel.eu/articles/356432/).
Pashinyan has said since the joint declaration that together with the opening of roads from Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan, something Baku very much wants, he expects the unblocking of roads from Yerevan to Armenian territory situated between Azerbaijan and the exclave and also of roads between Armenia and Iran through Azerbaijan’s Nakchivan region.
According to the Armenian prime minister, “the opening of communications will have essential significance for the Armenian economy.”
Lavrov for his part supported this Armenian view, noting that “Armenia has suffered more than the others from the ceasing of operation of trade and transport ties between Azerbaijan and the Turkish Republic …. Now, in correspondence with the agreement … all these links are being restored.”
Such statements raise a potentially explosive issue: According to the joint declaration, Russian peacekeepers will play a key role in the operation of routes between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan; but that accord says nothing about the possibility that Russian peacekeepers would play any role in guaranteeing Armenian passage through Nakhchivan
Armenia may seek parity, but Azerbaijan almost certainly will never accept Russian troops on its undisputed territory even if Yerevan has to get the deal. And conflict over the issue of Armenian passage through Nakhchivan could call into question Azerbaijani access via Zengezur to the Azerbaijani exclave and might even threaten all or parts of the broader accord.
That is not the only issue of this type – Pashinyan’s insistence that the status of Karabakh, nowhere defined in the agreement, must be established for the accord to work is another (dw.com/ru/армения-требует-прояснить-статус-карабаха/a-55589296) – but it and they mean that as pleased as many may be with the accord, it is still a long way to a real peace.
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