Friday, January 14, 2022

Syunik-Zengezur Not Karabakh-Qarabagh Now Center of Armenian-Azerbaijan Dispute

 Paul Goble

            Staunton, Nov. 25 – Over the last year, “the Karabakh issue appears to have receded into the background” not only for Armenians and Azerbaijanis but for all those involved with the dispute between Yerevan and Baku. Instead, Kirill Krivosheyev says, the locus of tension and the focus of attention is the Armenian territory between Azerbaijan proper and Nakhichevan.

            The region, which Armenians call Syunik and the Azerbaijanis Zengezur, has assumed that role because there has been absolutely no movement of the two sides concerning the future status of Karabakh-Qarabagh and because both sides see what happens in Syunik-Zengezur as more important, the Kommersant journalist says (

            This issue in this region, he continues, involves all the questions of the reopening of transportation and communication links across the region, as called for in the November 2020 declaration. But that accord left many of the most fateful questions unanswered, Krivosheyev points out.

            Will the link between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan “be allocated for Azerbaijani use alone? Or will Armenians also be able to travel along it from west to east? How much will transit of goods cost? And what exactly is meant by the phrase ‘control over transportation and communication is to be carried out by the Border Guard Service of the Russian FSB?”

            “Does that mean the Russian board guards will simply register entry and exit from Armenia? Or will they escort Azerbaijani convoys along the entire route?” Answers are critical because any accident along the route could “immediately escalate into an international conflict,” the journalist continues.

            The issues of Armenian use of the east-west route in turn raises questions about the passage of goods and people from Armenia through Azerbaijan and back, questions that so far the Baku government does not want to address, at least until they get the transit arrangements for themselves that they seek.

            Moscow’s public position on all this is “rather pro-Armenian,” Krivosheyev says, with Moscow maintaining that any passage must respect “the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the states through whose territories they pass” and that any talk of a corridor, as Azerbaijanis typically do, must stop.

            But Azerbaijan shows little inclination to back down on this, and Armenians are convinced that “if Azerbaijanis are allowed to pave the road” or lay the track for a railway through Syunik-Zengezur, “they will demand the territory around it,” especially because fighting over that land bridge has a long and bloody history.

            Because the Syunik-Zengezur issue seems as difficult as the Karabakh-Qarabagh one, many in the international community are pushing for territorial delimitation and demarcation at least to the north and south of the Lachin corridor. But that too is going to be difficult because there are many disputes about just where the state border goes.

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