Armenia and Azerbaijan: the next big thing

In 2022, Armenia and Azerbaijan started talks on a peace agreement that would formally delimit their mutual border, renounce territorial claims against each other, reestablish diplomatic relations, and rebuild transport links that have been broken for more than three decades. Those talks failed to prevent a violent resolution of the Karabakh issue, but they are set to continue as the two leaders work out the other issues on their agendas.

The last point — rebuilding the transport links — has been one of the most contentious and, in recent days, has prompted much mutual speculation. Azerbaijan and its key ally Turkey have signaled that, at least rhetorically, they are stepping back on one of their demands: that Armenia allow a road through its territory connecting Azerbaijan’s mainland and its exclave of Naxcivan. Now that Nagorno-Karabakh has been fully reconquered, the transportation question represents “the next big issue” in Armenian-Azerbaijani talks, wrote Thomas de Waal, an analyst at Carnegie Europe.

At issue is a transportation route that has become known by Azerbaijan’s term for it, the “Zangezur Corridor,” which was borne out of the cease-fire agreement that ended the 2020 war between the two sides. That deal included a provision committing Armenia to “guarantee the security” of transportation connections between Azerbaijan’s mainland and Naxcivan. It didn’t specify any particular route, but the shortest way between Naxcivan and the rest of Azerbaijan is through Armenia’s Syunik Province, known in Azerbaijan as Zangezur.

The 2020 agreement further stipulated that movement on those routes should be “unobstructed,” which led to disagreements about what, precisely, counted as an obstruction. Azerbaijanis initially signaled that they wanted the road to be a true corridor, with no Armenian border or customs officers checking vehicles or cargo as it passed through Armenian territory.

The route would connect Azerbaijan more tightly to Turkey, which shares a border with Naxcivan but not with mainland Azerbaijan. And Azerbaijani and Turkish officials have spoken of the would-be corridor in grandiose terms, as a means of linking the entire Turkic world, from Istanbul to Central Asia, with uninterrupted East-West road and rail connections.

The Armenian side has objected that that would amount to the country losing sovereignty over part of its territory, and a strategically vital part at that: The presumed route of the corridor would pass along the Iranian border, potentially hindering Armenia’s access to Iran, one of its key regional allies and trade partners.

Iran, too, has objected, repeatedly hinting that it would not allow its border with Armenia to be obstructed. Armenia’s fears were exacerbated by barely veiled threats from Aliyev to impose the corridor by force: “The Zangezur Corridor is a historical necessity,” the president said in January. “It will happen whether Armenia wants it or not.” Iran has not officially commented on the issue since the Karabakh surrender.

Comment: I remember a TV game show and a board game based on this dilemma. In those games, someone had to win and somebody had to lose. In real life we face this dilemma every time we come to a cross road. We solve it with a traffic light, a four way stop or, increasingly, a rotary or roundabout. 

Armenian and Azerbaijani negotiators are scheduled to meet in Spain later this week to begin negotiating such things. A closer look at the border region shows only one permanent bridge over the Aras River along the Armenian-Iranian border at Agarak-Nordooz. Logic would dictate establishing an international stretch of the road along the M2 leading to that river crossing. Turkey and Iran just came to a border agreement to move Kurds away from their mutual border. I’m sure they’ll both have something to say about the Zangezur Corridor.We’ll see if all the parties can be logical.


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12 Responses to Armenia and Azerbaijan: the next big thing

  1. James says:

    Russia has been trying to construct communication corridors that link Iran to St. Petersburg. The global hegemon wants to keep Iran isolated. Iran as a functioning member of BRICS is a threat to Brzeziński’s grand imperatives:

    “The three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.”

    • TTG says:


      The road from Saint Petersburg to Teheran has been open through Armenia. It’s not much of a road, but it’s open.

      • elkern says:

        James may be referring to plans to build a North/South rail link through Iran with sea links at both ends to transship bulk goods between Russia and India. That will/would have much bigger strategic/economic impact than trucks driving through the Caucasus, so US is prolly looking for ways to prevent or delay those plans.

  2. leith says:

    Iran has also had a long standing beef with Baku/Jerusalem coordination. Hosseini called Azerbaijan an Israeli proxy. Plus there have been Azerbaijani attempts to brew up trouble amongst Iran’s ethnic Azeris. And vice versa. And as James and TTG allude to, Iran is worried that the proposed corridor would cut off her commercial truck route sending goods through Armenia to Russia. Too bad Babak does not comment here anymore. He would have some extremely good insight on this issue.

    Another potential issue is what the corridor would do to the planned Iran-Armenian hydroelectric project on the Aras River at Meghri?

    And wouldn’t the southern panhandle of Armenia be cut off from the Aras River because of the corridor. Can they afford to lose access to that green belt?
    The river itself is supposedly revered by Armenians. Per the World Atlas: “According to Armenian tradition, the river is named after Arast, who was the great-grandson of the founder of the Armenian nation, Haik. Thus, in Armenian culture, the river has been celebrated as a symbol of the pride of the Armenian people.”

    • elkern says:

      The road from [the main part of] Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan runs right along the river, so there really isn’t much useable land between road & river (a few farms & orchards). Also, Azerbaijan seems to be asking for guarantees of safe passage, not actual territorial cession – for now, at least.

      The practical aspects of this seem very solvable, but the bad blood and larger-scale strategic concerns make any negotiations difficult. Turkiye is already [alleged to be?] arming Azerbaijan, and a land route would make that much easier. Without *real* security guarantees, Armenia will balk at that.

  3. babelthuap says:

    Nobody cares about this conflict except for those in it. End of the day it is a distraction. Ukraine is getting beatdown hard. They better figure out a way to stop it at that river before it’s too late. Stop it now.

    Once Russia pushes out there is no way to return to before that point. I don’t like Russia but I do accept reality and reason. End it and live to fight another day. Russia won. Want to keep pushing then find out the hard way why you should have stopped a long time ago. It is going to get extremely ugly. It already is but way past that point. Millions will die.

  4. d74 says:

    Corridor, like the one in Dantzig/Gdansk…
    Lachin corridor: bad omen.

  5. babelthuap says:

    What were the rates before the war compared to now? Mr. Polityuk is an established journalist but the piece is worthless without that data point. I do however give him credit for at least honoring the rates still stink. Just not as bad.

  6. peter mcloughlin says:

    There are many nations showing great interest in this regional dispute: it has many global ramifications. It cannot be separated from the growing descent into world war – local conflicts are connected, only one has to be the trigger.

  7. Whitewall says:

    The next big thing just may have exploded in to view this morning via Hamas’ all out attack on Israel.

    • TTG says:


      Although we all know how this will probably end, this was a massive Israeli intelligence failure. Bibi shouldn’t survive this.

      • Whitewall says:

        Quite possibly. The ongoing internal strife in Israel over the power of the Supreme Court and the corrective actions being taken against it at long last might have played an outsized part in distracting the intelligence agency-Shabak- as well as senior military. The response will be ugly.

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