Zangezur Corridor and options that are still on the table

In recent months Israels attack on the Gaza Strip and the brutal killing of this regime against the Palestinian people has become the main news of all the media resulting in all the other geopolitical-territorial crises and disagreements on the sidelines. However due to the issue of genocide in Gaza and the high intensity of conflicts and casualties in this war it is necessary to remain at the forefront of political analysis. Still it seems considering the multitude of threats around Irans borders neglecting other geopolitical issues and problems in the countrys peripheral area is also not expedient.
7 April 2024
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In recent months, Israel's attack on the Gaza Strip and the brutal killing of this regime against the Palestinian people has become the main news of all the media, resulting in all the other geopolitical-territorial crises and disagreements on the sidelines. However, due to the issue of genocide in Gaza and the high intensity of conflicts and casualties in this war, it is necessary to remain at the forefront of political analysis. Still, it seems, considering the multitude of threats around Iran's borders, neglecting other geopolitical issues and problems in the country's peripheral area is also not expedient. In particular, at the time of the rise of an international crisis, many state officials are trying to pursue their regional goals and objectives, which, in normal times, they had to carry out with high pressure and cost in the silence of the news in the light of changing the focus of global public opinion. The Caucasus crisis is also one of the issues that the lack of neglect and the readiness to manage the conditions on the northwestern borders in the interests of the country should be one of the requirements of the country's diplomatic apparatus.

After the third war of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023, which was accompanied by the victory of the Republic of Azerbaijan over the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and joining the region into Azerbaijan, due to the entry and interference of regional and trans-regional actors and the issue of Zangezur Corridor and the possibility of geopolitical changes at the Iranian borders, the strategic challenges between Baku and Tehran increased. Although Iran and Azerbaijan have widespread cultural and economic partnerships to cooperate and partnership, the Zangezur Corridor can affect Iran's geopolitical and regional interests by eliminating Iran's border access to Armenia and forcing our country to accept new geopolitical restrictions for transit from north to south and vice versa In other words, the corridor crossing the Armenian territory restricts Iran's borders and relations with Armenia and creates a kind of geopolitical suffocation for the country. Accordingly, after the Nagorno-Karabakh accession to Azerbaijan, many countries in the region, which are in strategic competition with Iran, were willing to create this corridor alongside Western countries and reached an agreement. However, our diplomatic authorities emphasized that the crisis should be resolved by the presence of regional actors and considering the interests of all countries in the region.

In such situations, despite the various tensions and challenges, Iran was able to convince other countries in the region, especially the Republic of Azerbaijan, to accept its suggestions. As a result, this challenge was managed through the suggestion of Iran, that is, cooperation in the form of a 3+3 regional meeting with the presence of six countries, Iran, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia, Georgia, and Türkiye, and the establishment of the east-west transit route between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Republic of Nakhchivan through Iran.

However, for the US and the Zionist regime, along with France and Britain, the Caucasian peace talks table based on a 3+3 format was unacceptable because it could have led to the realization of sustainable peace and, ultimately, blocked their interventionist path in Central Asian equations and preventing NATO's presence in the area. Thus, though their official position after the meeting was to support peace and stability in the region, their practical practice is to disrupt the agreements at the Tehran summit or to pursue the paths that can have political-economic and geopolitical consequences for Iran as much as the Zangezur Corridor.

The countries of the region have also had different approaches to this issue. Regarding Russia's position, it should be said that the war in Ukraine had a great effect on the Kremlin's approach to the Zangezur Corridor while this country was against the formation of this corridor after the second Nagorno-Karabakh war in 2020 and resisted the pressures of Türkiye and the Republic of Azerbaijan to establish it. But now, as a result of the consequences of the war in Ukraine, which has blocked Russian routes to the West, Russian authorities are looking for new routes to trade and communicate with other parts of the world. As a result, it seems that Russia's attitude towards the creation of the Zangezur Corridor has changed. However, Moscow has not yet publicly supported its creation.

Türkiye, which benefits from the revival of the Zangezur Corridor and the weakening of Iran's geopolitical position, has put itself in the line of Azerbaijani supporters, and in late February 2024, we witnessed the visit of Ilham Aliyev, the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, to Ankara based on Erdogan's official invitation. The trip during which it was emphasized the need to increase the volume of trade between the two countries, the Türkiye and the Republic of Azerbaijan, and of course, the global union of Turks and strengthening the organization of Turkic countries. In this regard, in order to advance its goals in the Caucasus region, Ankara seems to have been working more actively in multilateral initiatives such as strengthening the Turkish Organization and the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route.

Georgia, as the only country in the Caucasus region with direct access to the Black Sea, is seeking to increase its role in commercial transit from the critical situation in the Caucasus crisis. As a result, the country has been partially accompanied by Iran's opposition policy to create the Zangezur Corridor until the development and strengthening of the middle corridor (Trans-Caspian International Transport Corridor) becomes on the agenda of Azerbaijan and Western countries. The project is part of the East and West Communications Development Program that removes the territory of Russia and Iran and connects European countries through Türkiye and Georgia to Azerbaijan and then to the East, especially China.

Accordingly, it seems that at present, Iran's neighbors on the northwestern borders of the country are increasingly seeking to consolidate their position in transit corridors and political-economic exchanges to serve their interests in the Caucasus region. On the other hand, in recent weeks (February 23, 2024), after the defense ministry of this country claimed that four Armenian soldiers were killed in the attack of the Republic of Azerbaijan on the border positions of this country, Armenia suspended its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and claimed that the CSTO had not been implemented in the case of Armenia; an approach that can mean Armenia's closer proximity to Western countries. In these situations, the Caucasus region is once again susceptible to clashes and tensions, and the lack of entry and thoughtfulness of the Islamic Republic of Iran can lead to the trends of this region contrary to the national interests and security of the country. The most serious danger is the Republic of Azerbaijan turning its back on its agreements with Iran and this country's renewed attempt to revive the Zangezur Corridor from within the territory of Armenia.

In this regard, in the new circumstances, the Islamic Republic of Iran must revive the role of its balance in the Caucasus region prevent the unity of Türkiye, Azerbaijan, and Georgia to ineffective our country's transit routes and create alternative corridors and prevent the returning option of using force to occupy the Armenian Syunik Province and the reopening of the Zangezur Corridor from this route and emphasize its recent agreements with Baku to connect the Republic of Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan from within the Islamic Republic of Iran.

On the other hand, the Islamic Republic of Iran can enter as a mediator in their relations with good relations with both Russia and Armenia and, while conveying both parties to respect the country's considerations and interests in the issue of corridors and regional coalitions, preventing their relations from becoming darker, the Armenian government's willingness to play in Western countries context, and opening up these countries and NATO to the Caucasus.

Mohammad Mehdi Mazaheri, University Professor

 (The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the IPIS)

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