The topic of the Zangazur corridor has resulted in heated discussions in Armenian and Azerbaijani society. It has increased tension in the already tense relations between the two countries. Last week, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev spoke again on the subject.
Touching upon the terms of the peace agreement signed between the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia on November 10, 2020, Ilham Aliyev spoke about Zangazur.
“I would like to note once again that the issue of the Zangazur corridor is one of the most discussed issues in Azerbaijan and Armenia today. Armenia is very concerned about this issue. Because, after the opening of the Zangazur corridor, Azerbaijan, which will have land relations with Turkey, will increase its economic and political power, which worries the Armenians. The Armenian press and social networks talk and write about Zangazur almost every day.
What are Armenians afraid of? The Armenian public fears that after the opening of the Zangazur corridor connecting Turkey and Azerbaijan, official Baku will make territorial claims against these lands and start a new war for Zangazur in the next stage. As a result, Armenia will lose Zangazur.”
Even taking into account this concern in the Armenian society, Armenian leadership – President Armen Sargsyan and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan – from time to time, visits the Zangazur region and meets with the local population to try to calm them down. Even Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan`s motorcade, which was visiting Zangazur a few days ago, was stopped by locals and angry residents who threw eggs.
Why Armenians living in Zangazur are afraid and anxious
Why are local Armenians living in Zangazur so worried and nervous? There are a number of reasons.
The Zangazur region, which the Armenians call Syunik, is located on the border with Azerbaijan, and now the Azerbaijani military is very close to that region and protects the state borders of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Local Armenians, who see Azerbaijani soldiers and the waving tricolor Azerbaijani flag every day, continue to worry.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s speech about Zangazur last week added to the anxiety and fear in Armenian society. What did Ilham Aliyev say about Zangazur that there was an agenda in Armenia?
“The people of Azerbaijan will return to Zangazur, which was taken from us 101 years ago,” Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said last week. The President added that all necessary steps would be taken to ensure national interests and said that the opening of the Zangazur corridor served the national interests of Azerbaijan: “We will implement the Zangazur corridor, whether Armenia wants it or not. If they want, we will solve it more easily, and if they do not want, we will solve it by force. As I said before and during the war, voluntarily leave our land or we will evict you by force. That’s what happened. The fate of the Zangazur corridor will be the same. Our main rival is time. Because the construction of railways and highways takes time. Therefore, all forces have been mobilized to implement this project. Thus, the people of Azerbaijan will return to Zangazur, which was taken from us 101 years ago” Ilham Aliyev said.
Main rival for Azerbaijan
There was one sentence that caught my attention during this speech. “Our main rival is time,” Ilham Aliyev said. This is not a simple statement; it is also a demonstration of Azerbaijan’s power. Today, Azerbaijan is not afraid of not only the defeated Armenia, but also its supporters and other world superpowers. It is only time that hinders the implementation of Azerbaijan’s plans in the short term.
This statement was presented differently in the Armenian press. Allegedly, Azerbaijan is making a territorial claim against Armenia and trying to capture the Zangazur region. In fact, we are talking about the opening of the Zangazur corridor, which is clearly reflected in the November 10 agreement. In other words, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed the agreement with his signature, and thus the Armenian side cannot hinder this project.
But why is the Zangazur corridor so important for Azerbaijan?! And what is behind Armenia’s concern about this corridor?! I decided to do a brief study on the strategic importance of the Zangazur corridor.
First of all, I would like to note that the November 10 statement signed by the Presidents of Azerbaijan, Russia and Prime Minister of Armenia reflected the issue of ensuring the land connection of Nakhchivan with the main part of Azerbaijan. This connection is provided by the Zangazur corridor. At present, the issue of opening the Zangazur corridor is on the agenda. The commissioning of this corridor will have a serious impact on the Azerbaijani economy and the region as a whole.
The opening of the Zangazur corridor will have a great impact on the economies of Turkic-speaking countries and increase the importance of the East-West and North-South transport corridors.
The Zangazur corridor will not only unite the Turkic-speaking countries with a nominal GDP of more than $1.1 trillion, but also increase the strategic importance of Azerbaijan. This corridor will connect a region with significant economic potential and natural resources.
Strategic importance of the Zangazur corridor and the possibility of a new war
The commissioning of the Zangazur corridor will turn Azerbaijan into a center for transport hubs in the region. Azerbaijan is closely involved in the formation of the East-West and North-South transport corridors, directly providing financial support for the development of the regional part of these transport corridors. This will provide Nakhchivan with access to these transport corridors through the main territory of Azerbaijan. It will be especially important in terms of providing access for Nakhchivan businessmen to the East-West transport corridor.
Most importantly, the Turkic world will be reunited through the Zangazur corridor after many years.
It should be noted that the Zangazur corridor was included in the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan with the Moscow Agreement signed between Turkey and Russia in 1921, and later with the Kars Agreement signed by Georgia, Armenia and the Azerbaijani SSR.
It seems that the issue of the Zangazur corridor will cause tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan for many years to come. Refusal to open this corridor is a violation of the November 10, 2020 agreement. If Armenia goes for it, then a new war between the two countries will be inevitable. For Armenia, which was defeated in the 44-day war and its army was completely paralyzed, the new war means new and more serious tragedies.
Dr. Ahmad Shahidov