By Vafa Ismayilova
The trilateral statement signed between Baku, Moscow and Yerevan in November 2020, opened new economic and transport opportunities for the region. The agreement reached following the 44-day war, not only ended Armenia’s three-decades-long occupation but also stipulated the unblocking of transit communications in the region. Clause 9 of the statement specifies that Armenia must provide security guarantees for the Zangazur corridor that will connect Azerbaijan’s Nakhchivan exclave to other parts of the country through the territory of Armenia.
However, Armenia has so far been reluctant to fulfil its obligations under the deal to help open economic and transport communications in the region that had been blocked due to the conflict.
Recently, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that Yerevan will give its consent to the Zangazur corridor only in exchange for the opening of the Nakhchivan corridor for the Armenians.
Experts believe that this way, Pashinyan announced a bargain or simply blackmailed Azerbaijan, making it clear that Armenia is going to use the issue of the Nakhchivan corridor to the fullest. Pashinyan also displayed his lack of understanding of the peace deal, by declaring that the trilateral statement contains no text on the corridor to Nakhchivan.
However, the statement does contain a clause that demands that “The Republic of Armenia guarantees the safety of transport links between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic [NAR] in order to organize the unimpeded movement of citizens, vehicles and goods in both directions. Control over transport links is carried out by the bodies of the Border Service of Russia’s FSB [Federal Security Service]. By agreement of the Parties, the construction of new transport communications linking the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic with the western regions of Azerbaijan will be provided."
Commenting on Pashinyan’s confusing statement, Baku-based Day.az said: “This is pure manipulation because regardless of the name of the transport corridor, its geographic parameters are very specifically defined, and everyone who has a mind should understand that from Zangilan it is possible to get to Nakhchivan under the supervision of Russian border guards only through Armenia’s territory, and more specifically, through Zangazur.”
As for other communications that operated before the conflict unleashed by Armenia, they were not destroyed by Azerbaijan and can be used after reconstruction, the website said.
“But Pashinyan and his team must understand that neither the Gazakh-Ijevan railway nor other transport and economic communications will be open for Armenia until it stops blackmailing and proceeds to a constructive dialogue. Bargaining is completely inappropriate here… Setting conditions is a tool that was not available to Armenia even during the period of occupation and the lasting status quo. To expect to use it today, when all the leverages are in the hands of Azerbaijan, is simply madness,” Day.az said.
Obstacle to post-war development
Azerbaijani political analyst Ilgar Valizade said that Armenia’s refusal to comply with the 9th clause of the trilateral agreement of November 10 is another proof that Armenia’s political leadership and, more broadly, Armenia’s political elite and its attitude to the issue, is the only obstacle to the post-war development.
“Today, after Armenia suffered a crushing defeat, it is completely incomprehensible why they are pursuing the previous policy without obvious results. Here we see a lack of political will, an attempt to look for answers to the current situation in the past, where there are none, and a reluctance to accept realities, draw conclusions and turn the sinking ship towards recovery and development,” Valizade said.
The expert stressed that the Armenian leadership, which signed the trilateral deal, does not at all realize its actions.
“They signed the statement, pledged to fulfil specific points, but they are not doing it. In my opinion, it is necessary to develop a mechanism for forcing Armenia to fulfil its obligations. Otherwise, what's the point and sense of this document? Unfortunately, practice shows that Armenian has never fulfilled the obligations assumed within the framework of any structures and formats. Based on this practice, it is necessary to consider Armenia’s behaviour and take measures for the fulfilment of agreements reached with its participation,” he said.
Valizade drew Pashinyan’s attention to the fact that clause 9 of the peace deal stressed the need to restore the communication linking the western regions of Azerbaijan with Nakhchivan. Although the name of the corridor is not given, its geography is clearly spelt out.
“This is precisely the Zangazur corridor because there is no other way to connect the western regions of Azerbaijan with the NAR,” he said.
Valizade added that the same document referred to the unblocking of all communications, that is, the route that existed in Soviet times from Yerevan through Nakhchivan.
“If Pashinyan is able to perceive correctly the text in Russian (which I have great doubts about), he should understand that we are talking about unblocking and restoring all routes of communication. There can be no question of any ‘exchange’. Azerbaijan has always fulfilled its obligations. If Yerevan behaves good and fulfils its obligations, Azerbaijan will unblock the Gazakh-Ijevan railway, which also functioned before the conflict unleashed by Armenia,” he said.
The expert recalled Armenia’s past practice to evade responsibility, to interpret in its own way the undertaken obligations and international documents.
“An example of this is the notorious UN Security Council resolutions that were not implemented by Armenia, which tried to look for some other meaning in these documents... Unfortunately, this approach does not allow us to say that Armenia wants to implement the trilateral agreement. In fact, it delays this process in every possible way. This causes great discontent on Azerbaijan,” he said.
He said if the OSCE Minsk Group wants to be useful, it should do something to force Armenia to fulfil its obligations. Valizade ruled out any significant changes in Armenia’s position before the upcoming elections there.
“And this is a waste of time, which hits the interests, first of all, of Armenia itself," he said.
Yerevan's destructive position
Azerbaijani MP Aydin Huseynov shared similar views, saying that Yerevan is delaying the process of restoring communications.
“Armenia continues to stick to a destructive position...The victory of the Azerbaijani troops in the 44-day Armenia-Azerbaijan Nagorno-Karabakh War and the liberation of lands from occupation created a new reality and an atmosphere of cooperation in the region,” Huseynov said.
He noted that Azerbaijan announced its readiness to cooperate with all neighbouring countries in the new reality.
"But, unfortunately, Armenia does not take similar steps and has taken a destructive position, delaying the implementation of the provisions of the trilateral statement of November 10. Armenia by such actions prevents the establishment of peace in the region,” the MP added.
Huseynov stressed that today Armenia is in a deep political and economic crisis and that it is unclear how this crisis will end, but it does not bode well for Armenia.
"The leadership of this country has not yet realized the new reality and does not understand that the only way out of the situation which is observed in Armenia and its economy is to cooperate with the neighbouring countries...If communications are not restored, then Armenia will be unable to get out of the blockade, which will aggravate the economic crisis in this country,” Huseynov said.
“However, even in this situation, Armenia continues to express absurd, revanchist ideas and hinder the establishment of peace. However, the Armenian leadership must take into account that such behaviour does not bode well for it.”
The MP underlined if Armenia continues to prevent the restoration of communications, it will find itself in an even more difficult situation.
"Therefore, the only way out for Armenia is the implementation of the trilateral statement of November 10, 2020," he said.
Earlier in March, President Ilham Aliyev said that Armenia shies away from the cooperation and seeks to hamper the implementation of the Zangazur corridor. The president had also said that the Zangazur corridor will create new opportunities in the transportation sector in the region.
“Our goal is to restore communications already in a trilateral manner – together with Armenia and Russia, create the Zangazur corridor and remove all transport obstacles. If this happens, then Armenia will also benefit. They will also see the benefits of peace,” Aliyev said during a presser for domestic and foreign journalist held on the anniversary of the Khojaly genocide on February 26.
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