Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Moscow Says Armenia Must Retain Sovereignty over Zengezur and Azerbaijan Over Lachin

Paul Goble

            Staunton, June 8 – In Moscow’s latest move on the Qarabagh dispute, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov says that Armenia must retain sovereignty over what many call the Nakhichevan corridor through Zengezur and that Azerbaijan must maintain sovereignty over what has long been called the Lachin corridor between Armenia and what was Artsakh.

            On the one hand, this reflects a Moscow tilt toward Yerevan as Armenia has objected to any talk of an Azerbaijani corridor through Zengezur; but on the other, it gives Baku something it has long wanted, clear support for Azerbaijani sovereignty over the Lachin corridor, something it can use to control the movement of people and goods between Armenia and Stepanakert

            Lavrov’s words may allow Yerevan and Baku to make progress on delimiting the state border between them because they would appear to suggest that Moscow doesn’t want the area around Lachin to be the stumbling block to such an effort. Many observers had suggested that the two Caucasian countries will have little difficulty in drawing the border except near Lachin.

            That is because drawing the border there would mean an acknowledgement by Armenia that the corridor is within Azerbaijan rather than a lifeline to what Yerevan hopes will be to a revived Armenian community or even political entity in and around Stepanakert protected by Russian “peacekeepers.”

            Now, Moscow has come down on Azerbaijan’s side on this issue, something that will undercut European efforts to keep open the question of the final status of Qarabagh. But at the same time, Moscow has sweetened the deal for Armenia by taking a harder line on Zengezur/Syunik and insisting that there be no talk of an Azerbaijani-controlled corridor there.

            Moscow clearly expects that the only way to make these twin positions work is for the Russian troops and border guards in both places to remain in place and that if that occurs, it will be Russia rather than the European Union that will be in a position to resolve or at least continue to exploit the Qarabagh conflict in the future (kavkaz-uzel.eu/blogs/83772/posts/55109).

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