Nagorno-Karabakh: What the Zangezur Corridor means for Turkey and the region
Six days after Baku launched a military offensive to retake Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkish Pres. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan landed in Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave to meet his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev.
In a joint presser, the pair held a groundbreaking ceremony for the Iğdır-Nakhchivan gas pipeline, alluded to the prospects for regional peace and emphasized the importance of developing the Zangezur Corridor, a road and rail transport route through a 44-km strip of southern Armenia.
"The realization of this corridor, which is very important for Turkey and Azerbaijan, is a strategic issue and must be completed," Erdoğan told reporters after the event.
Previously, in April 2021, Aliyev spoke more directly, stating: “We are implementing the Zangezur corridor, whether Armenia likes it or not.”
Past and present focus on the corridor is noteworthy against the backdrop of recent events in Nagorno-Karabakh, outlined here by journalist Arzu Geybullayeva, and the humanitarian challenges facing the region’s more than 100,000 displaced ethnic Armenians, laid out here by the International Crisis Group.
In official discourse, the Zangezur corridor is pitched as a project to connect Nakhchivan to the rest of Azerbaijan and Turkey to the rest of the Turkic world. Yet the proposed trade route could have broader regional implications, like facilitating Russian sanctions evasion or curtailing Iran’s overland trade, all while bypassing its host nation, Armenia.
"Azerbaijan and Turkey, they will explode [economically] with the 'corridor', probably with Russian supervision and protection, and Armenia will have no say. Armenia will not be able to profit from it," Olesya Vartanyan, senior analyst in the South Caucasus region for the International Crisis Group, told Turkey recap.
Underscoring the growing trade relations between Moscow and Ankara since the 2022 invasion of Ukraine, Vartanyan added:
“Russia is particularly interested to control a ‘corridor’ with a special road between Turkey and then Azerbaijan because that would provide it with a very comfortable link that will not be supervised by anyone who can scream and shout about the sanctions.”