Azerbaijan, which recently captured most of the disputed region of Nagorno Karabakh from Armenia, is now pursuing another ambitious project: the creation of a transport and geopolitical corridor through Armenia’s southern province of Syunik, also known as Zangezur.
The Zangezur corridor, as it is called by Azerbaijan and Turkey, would connect Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan and Turkey to the rest of the Turkic world, bypassing Armenia.
Armenia, which has been under a blockade by Azerbaijan and Turkey since the 1990s, has strongly objected to the idea of a corridor, arguing that it would threaten its sovereignty and security. Armenia has also accused Azerbaijan of using the term “corridor” to imply a territorial claim over Syunik, which was historically part of Armenia and has a predominantly Armenian population.
The negotiations over the Zangezur corridor have been tense and controversial, with conflicting statements from both sides and their allies. Azerbaijan has claimed that it has the right to unimpeded access to Nakhchivan without Armenian checkpoints, based on the principle of territorial integrity. Azerbaijan has also initiated construction projects on its territory near the border with Armenia, presenting them as part of the implementation of the Zangezur corridor.
Armenia, on the other hand, has insisted that it will not allow any infringement on its territorial integrity or sovereignty, and that it will only agree to unblock regional communications in accordance with the 2020 ceasefire statement1. Armenia has expressed willingness to participate in rebuilding the Soviet-era railway links that historically connected Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan through Syunik, but has rejected any notion of a corridor.
The Zangezur corridor issue remains one of the major sticking points in the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which are still at odds over several other matters, such as the status of Nagorno Karabakh, the return of prisoners of war, and the demarcation of their mutual border. The prospects for a lasting peace in the South Caucasus depend largely on how these issues are resolved.