Pashinyan says unblocking of regional links to benefit Armenia's economy

Rahim Huseynli Feature 26 October 2021
Pashinyan says unblocking of regional links to benefit Armenia's economy

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said that the reopening of the regional economic and transport links would be beneficial for his country's economy.

"We think this is the only way which will make it possible to overcome the atmosphere of enmity in the South Caucasus region. And through this we will be able to resume the negotiations on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and to settle the conflict. This is exactly what will allow us to unblock the regional economic and transport infrastructure,” Pashinyan said on October 25 during discussions on the state budget for 2022 in parliament. 

He added that “this can give an additional impetus for developing domestic infrastructure, ensure a long-term inclusive economic growth by creating equal conditions for Armenian citizens to be involved in business activities, and considerably increase the economy's attractiveness for local and foreign investors".

Earlier, the Armenian media reported that the Armenian prime minister and Azerbaijani president would meet in Moscow in November 9 to sign two agreements on the border demarcation and on the opening of transport links between the two countries. 

Meanwhile, Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Vahan Unanyan dismissed the report, saying that no meeting was planned between the two countries’ leaders. 

During a discussion of the draft law "On the state budget of the Republic of Armenia for the year 2022" in parliament, Pashinyan said that Armenia's defense budget for the year 2022 is 11% bigger than that of the year 2021 and totals 725m dollars.

He also said that Armenia was on its way toward creating a professional army and that the government would do this "smoothly enhancing the attractiveness of military service and improving the image of officers' service step by step, and by developing and improving Armenia's military doctrine". 

Pashinyan said that in the new conditions the defense of the country's borders remained the "main priority" and that eventually only borders troops would be involved in the protection of Armenia's borders.

He also said that the start of the process of the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from Armenian territory, in particular from the Sotk-Khoznavar stretch of the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and its delimitation and demarcation would create favorable conditions for the resolution of this problem.

On October 20, during his visit to southwestern Zangilan District which borders Armenia and Iran, and regained in the September-November 2020 Karabakh war, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that “the latest developments regarding the opening of the Zangazur corridor show that we are achieving what we want”. 

The Zangazur corridor is a transport link between mainland Azerbaijan and its exclave of Nakhchivan via Armenian territory, is part of the armistice agreement signed between Azerbaijan and Armenia with Moscow's mediation on November 10, 2020.

Aliyev said that the construction of an international airport started in Zangilan last April and that Zangilan would turn into the country's transport and logistics hub. "Because the Zangazur corridor passes here, a railway and the Horadiz-Agband motorway are being built” the president added.

“The issue of opening of a motorway is already being solved, the issue of a railway is being resolved. The deputy prime ministers of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia will hold yet another meeting in Moscow today, and our position will be voiced there once again," Aliyev said.

The launch of the multi-modal corridor is said to benefit all regional nations and contribute to the Eurasian trade and transport communications that incorporate the regional economies with a potential nominal GDP of $1.1 trillion. Chinese authorities are convinced that the Zangazur Corridor will contribute to the implementation of the Belt and Road megaproject.

The Azerbaijan Railways Company and the State Agency of Azerbaijan Automobile Roads are currently implementing multiple railway projects in the liberated lands. An all-new railway link is being laid between the capital Baku and Azerbaijan’s cultural capital city of Shusha in the Karabakh region.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said at a summit of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) on October 15 that his government hoped to reach concrete results in the opening of regional communications in the near future. 

"This means that we will get a railway and highway connection with Russia and a railway link with Iran through Azerbaijani territory, and it [Azerbaijan] will get a railway and highway connection with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic via our territory," Pashinyan said.

On October 20, the Azerbaijani-Armenian-Russian working group on the opening of regional transport communications held a meeting in Moscow. Prior to the meeting, Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan said that the group would discuss the opening of motorways among other things. 

The State Agency of Azerbaijan Automobile Roads is currently implementing ten highway projects in the Karabakh and East Zangazur regions of Azerbaijan. The total length of the roads is 665 kilometers. The newly established highway grid enables faster and shorter connections among the liberated regions, as well as shortens the travel from capital Baku in terms of both time and distance, coming out as a vital link for international routes such as the intercontinental TRACECA transport corridor. 

Azerbaijan’s Digital Development and Transport Minister Rashad Nabiyev’s said during the virtual 15th Annual Meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission (IGC) TRACECA on October 21 that TRACECA would exclusively benefit the restoration of transport and economic links that have been unlocked in the districts and cities reclaimed by Azerbaijan in the last year’s 44-day war with Armenia in the Karabakh region. 

He hinted at the completed and ongoing infrastructure and transport projects implemented by the Azerbaijani government, such as airports, highways, railways, logistic centers, industrial and agro parks, and etc.

Established in Brussels in 1993, TRACECA stretches from Shanghai in China to Frankfurt in Germany, being acknowledged as one of the modern twists of the ancient Eurasian trade and transport corridor, the Great Silk Road. TRACECA aims to strengthen economic relations, trade, and transport cooperation in the regions of South Caucasus and Central Asia by connecting them with Europe in the shortest transport corridor. It also helps the EU implement the programs for the development of the economies of thirteen TRACECA nations, nine of which have once been part of the Soviet Union, including Azerbaijan.  

In addition to the overland transport network, civil aviation is also being revived in the liberated lands of Azerbaijan. The Fuzuli International Airport that was commenced in the district of Fuzuli this week is the first new top-notch civil aviation hub in the liberated Karabakh region.