As Turkey, Azerbaijan advance Zangezur Corridor, will Armenia play ball?

The geopolitically significant Zangezur transport corridor is moving toward completion by the end of 2024, offering the potential to connect Europe with Central Asia and China via Turkey and Azerbaijan, which are constructing and enthusiastically promoting the project. Work on part of the route is being held up, however, by differences between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The Zangezur region, historically claimed by both Azerbaijan and Armenia and the current project’s namesake, was transferred to Armenia in the 1920s by the Soviet Union. The move divided Azerbaijani territory, depriving Baku of direct access to Nakhchivan, which became an autonomous enclave within southwestern Armenia. To establish a viable transit route between Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan requires Armenia allowing Azerbaijan exclusive access across its territory, but Yerevan remains cold to the idea.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev warned Armenia on Jan. 10 that it will remain landlocked if it refuses to allow direct access between Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan. Pointing specifically to article 9 of a 2020 agreement signed by Yerevan, Baku and Moscow for the construction of transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan, Aliyev said that without the Zangezur Corridor route, Azerbaijan would not open its border with Armenia. 

Last September, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the Zangezur Corridor matter a “strategic issue” for Turkey. During a cabinet meeting in Ankara, he emphasized the importance to Turkey of having direct rail and road links with Azerbaijan. Of note, more than 80% of the corridor is already completed. 

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