The “Zangezur Corridor:” Main reason for Azerbaijani aggression?

The “Zangezur Corridor:” Main reason for Azerbaijani aggression?
Update: 16 September 2022 19:36
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The tripartite agreement does not specify the location of a corridor, despite Azerbaijani interpretation

Azerbaijan has launched coordinated attacks in various directions along the Armenian border, particularly in the adjacent areas of Vardenis, Goris, Kapan and Jermuk, Armenia News reported late Monday.

Armenian Defense Ministry said: "On September 13, at 00:05, units of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces began to fire intensively at Armenia'n positions from artillery and large-caliber firearms in the direction of Goris, Sotk and Jermuk. The Azerbaijani Armed Forces also use UAVs."

The Turkish state news agency AA said the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced that clashes erupted along the border with Armenian forces. The ministry claimed that clashes have begun upon provocative actions by Armenian troops.

The United States has seen sufficient evidence that Azerbaijan is shelling inside Armenia and has given significant damage to Armenian infrastructure, Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said in a press briefing on Tuesday.

Price said that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken “urged President Aliyev to cease hostilities immediately, to disengage military forces, and to work to resolve all outstanding issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan through negotiations that are peaceful and diplomacy that is constructive.”

Armed conflicts between Azerbaijan and Armenia resumed after the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020. 49 Armenian troops and 50 Azerbaijani troops have been reportedly killed in clashes that according to the Armenian Defense Ministry began with coordinated attacks by Azerbaijan, while the latter claimed that fighting started upon "provocative actions" by Armenian units.

Price said that Secretary Blinken has been personally engaged on the conflict and he was on the phone with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan until after 1:00 a.m. underscoring the importance of an immediate cessation of these hostilities. Meanwhile, efforts are underway to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict between the neighboring countries. 

The council of the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) held a meeting via video link on Tuesday evening to discuss the outbreak of hostilities. The UN Security Council will also hold a meeting on Wednesday.

Why did Azerbaijan attack Armenia? Is all this done for the "Zangezur corridor" that Azerbaijan dreams of? Did Russia's decline in Ukraine, Europe's "intimacy" with Azerbaijan due to its need for natural gas, the acceleration of the Turkey-Armenia resolution process, which is said to have been revived years later, affect the timing of the attack?

Regional experts think that most of the reasons for the attack were to take the "Zangezur Corridor" that Azerbaijan dreams of, to strengthen its hand in the negotiations.

The region called the Zangezur Corridor defines a transport corridor in the territory of Armenia between the autonomous region of Nakhchivan, and Azerbaijan. According to Azerbaijan, the Article 9 of the ceasefire agreement signed after the Nagorno-Karabakh War in 2020 is the basis for this claim.

Article 9 of the agreement reads as follows: All economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked. The Republic of Armenia shall guarantee the security of transport connections between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in order to arrange unobstructed movement of persons, vehicles and cargo in both directions. The Border Guard Service of the Russian Federal Security Service shall be responsible for overseeing the transport connections.

As agreed by the Parties, new transport links shall be built to connect the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and the western regions of Azerbaijan.

Does opening of the corridor unite the "Turkish world”?

After the signing of the agreement, the Zangezur corridor was at the center of the discussions. The opening of the corridor was described as "the Turkish world unites” many times in Turkish media.

While Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey made statements to open a physical corridor in the region, the Armenian side argued that this was planned as a region where only the passage between the two sides would be open. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev announced that they agreed with Armenia on the opening of railway and highway lines of the Zangezur corridor.

Aliyev also declared that the Zangezur corridor would unite the Turkish world.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also stated, "We strongly support the Zangezur Corridor, which will connect Nakhchivan, and we expect the corridor to be opened as soon as possible."

However, the two sides' approach to the corridor differs. While the Azerbaijani/Turkish side talks about a physical corridor in the region, the Armenian side claims that such a corridor will not exist, only the passage in the region will be open.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan stated that the "Zangezur corridor" statements, which were kept on the agenda by Turkey and Azerbaijan, undermined the process and prevented its progress.

In a meeting with journalists, Eduard Agacanyan, Chairman of the Permanent Committee on Foreign Relations of the Armenian National Assembly, head of the Armenian delegation to the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, and a member of the parliament, said that the logic of the “Zangezur Corridor” is in no way acceptable to Armenia.

Russia, on the other hand, welcomes the opening of the corridor as a way to accelerate economic activities. Sergey Markov, Russian political scientist and Director of the Center for Political Studies, stated that the opening of the Zangezur Corridor will speed up the commute and that this is also beneficial for Russia. “With the opening of the corridor, Turkey and Russia will be directly connected to Azerbaijan,” Markov said.

Iran, on the other hand, is uncomfortable with both the interruption of transportation between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan and the possibility of closing its border with Armenia.

In his Twitter post, Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said: "We are happy with the return of Karabakh to Azerbaijan. Of course, if there is a policy of blocking the Iran-Armenia border (at work), the Islamic Republic will oppose it, because this border is a communication route for thousands of years.”

Political analyst Kerim Has says that the ceasefire does not specify the Zangezur corridor, or that this line will necessarily open from the Syunik region of Armenia or the line that Azerbaijan calls the Zangezur Corridor.

Has notes that the least expensive and shortest route connecting Nakhchivan to other regions of Azerbaijan passes through the Syunik region, but theoretically, Armenia can open this line through another region. According to Has, “There is no statement in the tripartite agreement that this line has the same status as the Lachin corridor, that is, its sovereignty will be shared by Azerbaijan. Therefore, the conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia also differs in the interpretation of the tripartite agreement.”