Armenian PM Ready to Take “Concrete” Steps to Unblock Regional Communications

Gulnar Abbasova Feature 6 November 2021
Armenian PM Ready to Take “Concrete” Steps to Unblock Regional Communications

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has said that his country is ready to take "concrete" steps to unblock regional communications and economic infrastructure.

"I want to mention once again that Armenia is interested in the unblocking of regional communications and economic infrastructure. As I have publicly said many times, we are ready to take concrete steps, according to which Armenia will get a railway and road connection through Azerbaijani territory, and Azerbaijan will get a railway and road connection through Armenian territory, including a connection with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic," Pashinyan said at a meeting with Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk in Yerevan on November 5. 

He added that Yerevan was committed to the November 11, 2020 and January 11, 2021 declarations, which were signed by Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia, on the unblocking of all transport and economic links in the region following the Second Karabakh War.

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.

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.

"Azerbaijani announcements that are about corridors have a negative impact on the efficacy of our work and the atmosphere, especially when there is nothing mentioned about corridors in our trilateral statement," Pashinyan said.

He added that "Azerbaijan is trying to impose its perceptions on the working group [made up of Azerbaijani, Armenian, and Russian deputy ministers], which is indeed not acceptable for us".

"Our documents are about unblocking economic and transport links and what we are proposing is that railway links which existed during the Soviet times must be restored and road connections which existed during the Soviet times, including the road connecting Azerbaijan with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, must be restored," Pashinyan added.

For his turn, the Russian deputy minister said that the trilateral working group had "pretty clear perceptions" about the conditions of routes, which he said were discussed with road construction experts.

"Following the eighth meeting of the working group held on 22 October, we believe that we will achieve concrete results, which in the first place stipulate that the routes are controlled by the country through which they pass," Overchuk added.

Commenting on the unblocking of transport links, Pashinyan said in parliament on October 27 that the Soviet-era railways and roads should be reopened and become available for the countries in the region. 

On November 4, addressing the Global Baku Forum on post-Covid-19 world, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reiterated his country's readiness to start peace talks and sign a peace treaty with Armenia following the Second Karabakh War in autumn 2020.

"We have made several proposals to Armenia to start working on a peace agreement because we do not want to talk about war, we want to talk about peace, we want to talk about future. Unfortunately, this proposal is still not answered," Aliyev said

He added that Baku had also offered Yerevan to start working on the delimitation and demarcation of the state borders with the sides recognizing each other's territorial integrity. This issue has not been addressed by Armenia either, he said.

"Azerbaijan demonstrates maximum constructiveness despite all the sufferings of almost 30 years of occupation, despite vandalism and barbarism on the liberated territories. We need to look to the future, we need to make the region safe, predictable and ready for large-scale cooperation," Aliyev said, adding that everything now depended on Armenia's position.

In a meeting with Arayik Harutyunyan, the separatist leader of ethnic Armenians in Karabakh, on November 3, Pashinyan said that he would like to discuss how the Armenian side sees ways of resolving the Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan, adding that the negotiations within the OSCE Minsk Group should resume "on the basis of the known principles, including nations' right to self-determination and determination of the status of Karabakh". 

In turn, Harutyunyan said that Karabakh "continues asserting its right to self-determination". He said that reconstruction efforts were continuing, 300 families would get flats by the end of the year, and up to 3,000 new flats would be put to use by the end of 2022.

He also thanked Pashinyan for allocating Karabakh a "large sum" from Armenia's 2022 state budget, saying that it would make it possible to resolve "all the problems".

Based on the 2021-2026 program of the Armenian government, Yerevan decided to allocate over $27 million for post-war reconstruction in Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Karabakh. This loan is given free of charge to cover Karabakh residents' electricity, gas and telephone bills in November 2021. 

Armenian Finance Minister Tigran Khachatryan said at a government meeting on October 28 that it would the fifth allotment, and that around $250 million had been allocated to Karabakh since 2020.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have no diplomatic relations and are yet to demarcate their frontier. The Armenian Security Council secretary, Armen Grigoryan, said on October 28 that Armenia is ready to start border delimitation and demarcation works, and is waiting for "positive signals" from Azerbaijan. 

Grigoryan added that Armenia and Azerbaijan should pull out their troops from the disputed border areas before demarcation starts.

The two countries have long been at odds over the Karabakh region. On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict between the two countries spiraled again, and during the military operations that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long Armenian occupation.

The war ended in a tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020 by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan. The tripartite agreement addressed the deployment of a Russian peacekeeping contingent in the Armenian-inhabited part of Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region, including the city of Khankendi.