By Paul Goble
Suggestions by Armenian and Azerbaijani officials that the two countries may sign a peace treaty by the end of this year or sometime next have sparked discussions about precisely what will be in it and whether the transportation corridors which were to be reopened according to the November 2020 declaration will be included.
That tripartite declaration specified that transportation links closed by the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Qarabagh would be reopened, raising hopes in Azerbaijan that this would involve the Zengezur corridor between Azerbaijan proper and Azerbaijan’s non-contiguous autonomy, Nakhichevan.
Because that corridor would cross Armenian territory and because at least according to most discussions, it would be controlled by Russian forces in their roles as peacekeepers and border guards, that has been opposed in Armenia where many see it as a move to encircle and even destroy their country.
Now, Russian commentator Stanislav Tarasov has published an article which suggests reopening the Zengezur corridor may in fact be off the table. He says that security problems on the Black Sea and the potential development of north-south rail traffic from Russia to Iran mean that for Azerbaijan the importance of Zengezur is “decreasing” (iarex.ru/articles/86528.html).
Given both the symbolic and practical significant of having direct land transportation between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan and thus beyond to Turkey, it is hard to credit that this is the case. But Tarasov’s words suggest that Moscow hopes this will be the case and may press for dropping any reference to Zengezur in a future peace treaty.