All eyes on the Zangezur Corridor

All eyes on the Zangezur Corridor

After Azerbaijan’s victory against separatism in the Nagorno Karabakh region, all eyes and discourses are directed on the so-called Zangezur Corridor between Azerbaijan and Nakhchevan, its enclave on the Turkish border. The corridor is part of Armenia today.

In the background, the United States is accelerating its activities in the region by widening them on Armenian soil.

We talked about these issues with Retired Brigadier General Fahri Erenel on these issues. Erenel is also teaching at the Istinye University as Director of the Center for Applied Research on Security and Defense Strategies (GÜVSAM).

To begin with, let me get a general evaluation from you about this operation of Azerbaijan.

My expectation is that with the current ceasefire agreement, the path to an enduring peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan is wide open.

Of course, this is actually Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh, when you look at it, it is Azerbaijan’s own territory, located within its own territory. Minsk agreements and other agreements already accept this.

But there is a dual structure in Armenia. One is centered in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the other in Armenia itself.

Before, this structure in Nagorno-Karabakh Clan and the administrative structure within Armenia were actually compatible with each other. Previous Presidents of Armenia were always of Nagorno-Karabakh origin. But for the first time, Pashinyan came to power as a person elected from outside Nagorno-Karabakh.

And in this process, the realities of Armenia along with the Nagorno-Karabakh region, because the economic living conditions and other difficulties began to force Armenia to make some moves. The structure in the Nagorno-Karabakh region wants to prevent this.

Simultaneously we observe an increase of tensions between Armenia and Russia.

Armenia is dependent on Russia in every aspect. But suddenly, it starts trying to rely on the US. We can say that the American lobby was extremely effective here.

This follows the US need to open a new front against Russia in order to reduce the pressure on Ukraine, to distract Russia attention from Ukraine by creating a conflict similar to the previous Georgia-Russia conflict on Armenia and allocating more attention and forces to this region.

I think that in the South Caucasus, the United States tries not only to open a new front against Russia but also hinder the Belt and Road project that comes from Turkmenistan to Türkiye via the region. Therefore, America is challenging Russia and China by using Armenia here by entering the Caucasus like a dagger, it is trying to literally divide and destroy the peace and stability in the Caucasus and the steps taken to fulfill the requirements of the Ceasefire Agreement established in November 2020.

In fact, among these moves made by the USA, we do not see that America is at all interested, for example, having the ceasefire agreement being fulfilled.

There is currently much talk about the opening of the Zangezur Corridor.

This corridor was a result of Stalin’s move. The region was under the control of Azerbaijan in 1921, but during the Soviet Union period, Azerbaijani Turks were forced to migrate from this region and the region got connected to Armenia, that is, the connection between the Turkish world and Türkiye was cut off.

There is a total of 250 kilometers of railway, starting from Baku and reaching Fuzuliye in the south, close to the Iranian border. This link is already there. However, this contact was cut off over time because Armenia did not take care of the railway to cut this connection, and it remained neglected.

Now this contact needs to be revealed more strongly and the 48 km section of the railroad needs to be built. It is also desired that highways pass through this region.

Of course, who steps in next? Iran. Because it is very close to the Iranian border. With the concern that the economic strengthening of this region will strengthen some movements in the north of Iran, called Southern Azerbaijan, where Azerbaijanis live in large numbers, and separatist movements, as has been expressed in dozens of cases, Iran takes Armenia’s side.

In fact, what is happening here is that America is trying to kill more than one bird with one stone. It is also trying to put a dagger between Russia and Iran by making Armenia seriously stand behind the Zangezur corridor and continue the agreement on the corridor.

And with the instability here, Washington tries to regain a dominant position in the Southern Caucasus to prevent China’s advance through Turkmenistan and the Caspian Sea.

Armenia’s biggest fear is that by establishing the connection between Azerbaijan, Nakhchivan and Türkiye, it will be surrounded from the South, Iran will be surrounded from the North, and Türkiye’s possible interventions will become open, and most importantly, economic life will revive, and Azerbaijan and Türkiye will be surrounded in the Middle East. It is concerned that it can establish connections with the Asian Turkish Republics and that its economy can develop even faster.

However, the connections of this corridor will make a significant economic contribution to Armenia. When we look at the economic situation of Armenia today, the national income per capita is very low.

Then, if I understand you correctly, in your opinion, the Armenian militia forces that are involved in terrorist acts, especially in Nagorno-Karabakh, seem to be America’s most important local elements here.

Yes, that’s how I see it. The Presidential elections were held a few days ago in the Karabakh region. I think there was Havrutyan, he resigned, the other one came, it doesn’t matter. These elections were legal, and to accept them is also illegal. But America turned a blind eye to them. Subsequently, they declared that he does not accept the results and the holding of elections.

We know that they frequently do that: officially not recognizing elections but factionally supporting them.

Coming back to the Zangezur Corridor. This creates a connection between Türkiye and the Turkish world. Do you expect any tension here? And how can these be avoided?

Of course, now, as I said, the Iranian factor comes into play. In other words, we know that Iran sided with Armenia in this homeland war and even conducted exercises on the border to keep Azerbaijan’s attention, and that the Azerbaijani people living in Southern Azerbaijan blocked the roads and prevented the materials, mortar weapons, and ammunition going to Armenia.

Southern Azerbaijan is the softest underbelly of Iran. With Southern Azerbaijan getting out of control, Iran considers that it would be divided into four parts: The Baloch, the Arabs in the Abadan region in the south, the Pejak or the PKK, and the Turkish region and Azerbaijan in the north.

In that scenario, a greater Azerbaijan is created. Iran and the Great Persian state will disappear. This is Iran’s biggest fear. That’s why they want to keep Southern Azerbaijan under control, with a population of nearly 30 million.

As you may remember, they even opened a consulate at the border in the corridor where no consulate had been opened before. On the Iranian side of the Zangezur corridor. In fact, Iran-Azerbaijan relations are not related to this incident. As you know, Iran-Azerbaijan relations were tense due to Israel’s cooperation with Azerbaijan on defense systems, Israel’s defense experts working with Azerbaijan, etc. Let’s remember that there were some actions, including the evacuation of the Iranian Azerbaijani Embassy, and even this took place.

This is actually what the United States wants. In other words, Israel is entering there like a wedge. We can think that the cooperation between these two countries is aimed at eliminating Iran’s support to Russia during the Ukraine war. But could Iran enter such a conflict? No, I don’t think he will. Because after all, there is a region just north of it, where nearly 30 million to 25 million people still speak Turkish and are cheered on in Türkiye in stadiums affiliated with Azerbaijan and Türkiye. Therefore, I do not think that he will ever resort to such a war, considering this region.

What is your solution suggestion?

In fact, Mr. President Erdoğan has presented the solution proposal at the United Nations General Assembly. Many decisions have been taken at the United Nations Security Council, including Azerbaijan’s Minsk talks, that Armenia must comply with. Armenia did not comply with any of these decisions.

I wish the members of the Security Council had done the necessary work in time to comply with these decisions and that so many people lost their lives today and I mentioned them. What needs to be done here is that Azerbaijan is currently forcing Armenia to sign a peace agreement.

As I said, the Lachin Corridor is the force multiplier of this war. In military parlance. The force multiplier gives the capturer a serious advantage and gives them a movement style in other activities.

Cover graphic by TRT World.

Yunus Soner
Political Scientist, former Deputy Chairman of Vatan Party (Turkey) Soner has participated in diplomatic visits to China, Syria, Iran, Egypt, Russia, Venezuela, Cuba and Mexico, among others. He has conducted meetings with President Bashar Al Assad (Syria), President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran), President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (Mexico), Manuel Zelaya (Honduras) and Foreign Ministers, Ministers of Finances and Representatives of Parliament from various countries. He has worked on Turkish-Russian, Turkish-Syrian, Turkish-Chinese and Turkish-Egyptian relations as well as on Latin America. Soner has had media participation in various international media channels, among them Russia Today and Sputnik (Russia), CGTN (China), Press TV (Iran), Syrian TV, El Mayaddin (Lebanon) and Telesur (Venezuela) and Turkish media. He has been a columnist to Turkish daily newspaper Aydınlık

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February 2024