Staunton, Nov. 22 – “The moment of truth” on the opening of the Zengezur corridor between Azerbaijan proper and its autonomy in Nakhichevan across Armenian territory is fast approaching and may come when the mandate of Russian peacekeepers in the region runs out three years from now, according to Kamran Gasanov,
The instructor at Moscow’s Friendship of the Peoples University says that this is despite Armenia’s reluctance to move forward on its commitments and Moscow’s unwillingness to pressure Yerevan to do so and is reflected in Azerbaijani and Turkish railway and highway projects that would like with communications through the corridor once it opens.
According to the November 9, 2020 tripartite declaration which ended the 44-day war, “all economic and transport links in the region are to be unblocked. Armenia guarantees the security of transport links between the Western regions of Azerbaijan and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic.”
At the same time, Gasanov continues his quotation that declaration specified that “control over transport communications will be carried out by the organs of the Border Service of the FSB of Russia” (trtrussian.com/mnenie/chto-budet-s-zangezurskim-koridorom-7203327).
To be sure, the ethnic Azerbaijani scholar says, in the declaration there is no mention of the word “corridor,” even though it is used there in describing the arrangements in Lachin on Azerbaijani territory; and it is also the case that the November 2020 declaration does not specify the route passage is to occur.
But, Gasanov insists, “there is no big difference in free passage and the word ‘corridor.’” And that is especially true because it is Russia and “not Armenia” which is guaranteeing security on highway and rail links between the two parts of Azerbaijani territory. “Implicitly,” this will be a corridor.
Yerevan insists that the opening of regional communication links should go in parallel lockstep with the opening of the Azerbaijan-Nakhichevan path and the opening of Armenian links to Iran through Azerbaijani territory and with Turkey. “By this logic,” Gasanov says, Armenia will be assuming control of the Azerbaijani route, not Russia.
But however that may be, he says, “Azerbaijan and Turkey intend to accelerate the opening of the Zengezur corridor and have already done a great deal toward that end” even though Yerevan is dragging its feet and Moscow is not putting any pressure on it to change course.
“For Azerbaijan, the Zengezur corridor is needed to restore communications with its exclave of Nakhichevan and to have a direct land route to its close trading and investment partner Turkey.” Armenia and Russia would benefit if their routes across Syunik were reopened as far as links between the two and with Iran.
Unfortunately, “Armenia has neither the desire nor the means to speed up the opening of the Zengezur corridor.” And Russia won’t pressure it to do so. “Up to now, the desires of Turkey and Azerbaijan are insufficient.” But the two countries are doing everything to prepare for the corridor by building highways and rail lines up to the borders.
“When all roads on the territory of Azerbaijan toward Syunik will be built,” Gasanov concludes, “Baku will more actively at the diplomatic level raise the ‘corridor’ issue. And it is quite possible that this moment will coincide with the date of the end of the mandate Russian peacekeepers have in Qarabagh.”