Azerbaijan-Armenia tensions run high as Yerevan fails to honour commitments
The recent escalation of tensions in Azerbaijan's internationally recognised territories, which are currently under the control of Russian peacekeepers, has focused attention on the Lachin corridor, which Armenia attempts to portray to the world as a source of contention.
It is worth noting that the trilateral ceasefire agreement signed by Baku, Yerevan, and Moscow in November 2020, which ended the 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, openly stipulates the construction of a new road along the Lachin corridor within three years. The new road will bypass the town of Lachin under the agreement. Armenia shall use the new road to connect with Karabakh.
Uninterrupted attempts to resort to provocations in Azerbaijan's Karabakh, despite Baku's calls to withdraw its troops under the November deal can be seen as part of Yerevan's frivolous and untrustworthy policy, undermining regional peace efforts. Under various pretexts, Armenia maintains its policy of starting everything from scratch to avoid signing a peace treaty with Azerbaijan.
Armenian Security Council Secretary Armen Grigoryan's recent statement alleging that Baku's demand to organise traffic on a different route instead of the Lachin corridor is illegal inflamed the situation, contributing to further escalation between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
To recap, within the framework of Azerbaijan's "Revenge" operation on August 3, several combat positions of illegal Armenian armed formations were destroyed, and an air strike was carried out on a military unit in the settlement of Yukhari Oratagh of the former Aghdere (currently Kalbajar) district.
Four members of illegal Armenian armed groups were killed, and 19 were wounded on Azerbaijani territories temporarily monitored by the Russian peacekeepers in the Karabakh region. Several D-30 howitzers, military vehicles and a large amount of ammunition were also destroyed.
Azerbaijan has repeatedly stated that the presence of the Armenian armed forces and illegal Armenian armed formations on Azerbaijan territories, where Russian peacekeepers are temporarily stationed, contrary to the tripartite statement, is a source of danger. The demilitarisation of these territories, the complete withdrawal of Armenian troops from there and the disarmament of illegal Armenian armed formations were absolutely inevitable.
Alternative road to Lachin corridor
Azerbaijan is finalising the construction of a new road bypassing the Lachin city centre with a length of 32 km. The length of the road to be built by Armenia is only 4 km. Armenia delays the construction by not fulfilling its obligations.
The construction of the new road is one of the road infrastructure projects implemented on President Ilham Aliyev's instruction in Azerbaijan's Karabakh and East Zangazur economic regions.
The construction of a four-arch bridge with a length of 149.5 metres and a width of 13.5 metres at the 22nd kilometre of the road, as well as the construction of artificial installations, concrete ditches, etc., has already been completed. The necessary manpower has been involved in the territory to finalise the construction of the road soon.
Against the background of Azerbaijan's effective work in this sphere, Armenia has just started the process of designing the section of the road that it has to build.
"Turkish and Azerbaijani builders are already at the final stage of road construction in the areas near... Armenian villages and the Armenian side is just starting design work. There is no talk in official Armenian circles about the timing of the construction of a new road that will replace the Lachin corridor and connect Armenia with Karabakh," Radio Liberty's Armenian edition said on July 28.
So far, Azerbaijan has fully met its obligation under the November deal, ensuring unhindered transportation of citizens, vehicles, and goods in both directions between Armenia and the Karabakh region inhabited by Azerbaijan's Armenian population, where the Russian Federation's peacekeeping contingent is temporarily deployed.
Azerbaijan's expectations, Armenia's failed commitments
On August 4, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said the construction of a new road along the Lachin corridor has been ongoing for many months along the agreed route, and the Armenian side is adequately informed about this road.
The ministry stated that if Armenia uses various excuses to postpone the implementation of its obligations under the November trilateral deal, "it is yet another example of Armenia's non-constructive and disruptive behaviour in relation to the implementation of tripartite declarations and other agreements".
The ministry said that the full implementation of tripartite declarations is critical for ensuring regional peace and stability, as well as post-conflict normalisation.
"Azerbaijan fully fulfils its obligations and strongly demands that Armenia do the same," the ministry said.
In an interview with the local media, MP Arzu Naghiyev said that separatists are doomed to vacate the Lachin corridor.
"According to the statement of November 10, 2020, the Lachin corridor should be vacated soon and the Russian peacekeeping contingent should be moved to an alternative route," he said.
In mid-June, Aliyev called on Armenia to comply with commitments over unblocking regional communications to ensure Azerbaijan's connection with its exclave Nakhchivan.
"We expect that Armenia will comply with the trilateral declaration signed on November 10, 2020, with respect to the opening communications for Azerbaijan to have connections with its Autonomous Republic of Nakhchivan. Unfortunately, it is more than a year and a half since Armenia signed a capitulation act, but so far, there is no access. And this is unacceptable," he told the opening ceremony of the IX Global Forum on "Challenges to the Global World Order".
Armenia's violation of the provisions of the trilateral statement creates a kind of regional imbalance in the region, according to Aliyev.
"Because, based on the same declaration, Azerbaijan undertook the obligation to provide unimpeded access from Armenia to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan where the Armenian population lives," the president added.
Aliyev said that "so, for one year and a half, Armenians are using Lachin road to have this unimpeded connection, but Azerbaijanis cannot use the road through Armenia, Zangazur corridor connecting us with Nakhchivan. This is not fair, this is not just and we will never agree with that".
A month later, the president reiterated that although the Lachin road is open and Azerbaijan guarantees the safety of the road, Armenia fails to make progress in honouring its relevant commitments.
"We do not even see any work being done in this direction in the territory of Armenia," he said, adding if this "access is not provided to Azerbaijan, it will be difficult to talk about peace".
Azerbaijan considers the opening of the Zangazur corridor within a very short time to be one of the fundamental elements of future peace in the region. The country is set to use time and potential for the effective use of its resources and sees its future in collaboration and close cooperation among all three South Caucasus countries.