Sergei Melkonian
PhD, Research Fellow (APRI Armenia)

Why should Israel oppose the ‘Zangezur Corridor’?

Over the past two years, there has been an active discussion about the “Zangezur Corridor” project, which Turkey and Azerbaijan lobby. Given that this project will radically affect the geopolitical landscape of the South Caucasus, Iran started to pursue a proactive policy. The rhetoric emanating from Tehran, as well as the actions, indicate that it is beginning to get involved in the South Caucasus in all possible ways. And it is not excluded that such activity will lead to a large-scale escalation in which Israel and its allies may suffer.

Lately, Israel has been actively pumping up Azerbaijan militarily and technologically. The main goal of this policy is to create zones of influence along the perimeter of Iran. However, the problem is that Azerbaijan directs all the accumulated potential not toward Iran but against Armenia. Weapons, military equipment, and modern technologies provided by Israel to Azerbaijan were actively used during the last war in Nagorno-Karabakh against the Armenian side. It was the qualitative technological superiority that became the key to Azerbaijan’s victory. And this was the point where the activation of Iran began, which significantly succeeded in the region.

After the war, the parties began to discuss signing a peace treaty. In addition to the usual problems associated with the issues of delimitation and demarcation of the border, the issue of the so-called “Zangezur Corridor” becomes the cornerstone. Its essence is to create direct uninterrupted communication between Azerbaijan and Turkey through Nakhijevan (Azerbaijani enclave) through the territory of Armenia. At first glance, it may seem that this initiative is aimed at the development of the region. However, everything is fundamentally the opposite. The “Zangezur Corridor” is not an economic project. This project was on the agenda of the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century. Therefore, Erdogan, who is promoting this initiative today, said that this is a political issue. That is, the economic benefit for the region is secondary and is not taken into account at all.

The main problem of the “corridor” is different. Considering that its essence openly counters Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Yerevan has no other option but to move closer to Iran and Russia. In this case, only they are able to balance Turkey in the region. And this naturally resonates, in particular, in Tehran.

How is Iran becoming a beneficiary? 

The very talk of this project has created a window of opportunity for Iran to expand its sphere of influence. Activation is observed in all possible directions. Iran and Azerbaijan signed a Memorandum on doubling gas swap supplies, then Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan signed an agreement on facilitating transit transportation. Thus, Tehran is trying to outmaneuver Israel qualitatively and quantitatively by getting involved in all possible infrastructure projects.

As for Armenia, the situation is different. Given the current situation in Armenia, there are more areas of activity. For example, now there is increased interest in the country’s southern regions, through which Turkey wants to get a corridor. So, in October of this year, the official opening of the Iranian Consulate General took place in Kapan. And the process took less than a year. The rush was due to the need to get a legal presence in a sensitive area of ​​the country as soon as possible, which would become the basis for economic expansion. This leads not only to obtaining the existing Armenian assets but also to the involvement of Iranian companies in the region. In parallel, Iran proposes a security agenda. A professional police unit will be created in the same region in Armenia. Assistance in its creation and possible preparation will be provided by Iran, on which the parties have already agreed in November this year. The opening of the consulate and the training of Armenian police officers in the southern region are practical steps to support Armenia against the backdrop of talks about opening a corridor.

The “Corridor” hinders the establishment of peace in the region

The “Zangezur Corridor” topic for Armenia is a red line. And Yerevan is not ready to discuss its implementation in any form. However, as far as this topic remains on the agenda, being the main obstacle to peace negotiations, stabilization in the region is impossible.

As long as an atmosphere of uncertainty reigns in the region, another conflict may break out at any moment. It is the current state that provides a fertile ground for the involvement and strengthening of Iran and Russia. Removing the Zangezur Corridor from the agenda will demonstrate Turkey’s lack of expansionist intentions, creating the prerequisites for peace negotiations. As long as this issue is a precondition for Turkey and Azerbaijan, Iran offers Armenia its efforts to ensure security against the backdrop of the impending threat. And Yerevan cannot refuse. Thus, abandoning the idea of ​​a corridor will significantly narrow the window of opportunity for Iran in the region.

About the Author
Research Fellow at the Applied Policy Research Institute of Armenia (APRI Armenia) Analyst of Russia's foreign policy, Middle East and South Caucasus
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