The presidents of Turkey and Azerbaijan, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ilham Aliyev
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Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hosted talks with his Turkish counterpart, Tayyip Erdogan, in which he hinted at the prospect of creating a land corridor between the two countries through Armenia, which opposes the idea.
Erdogan purposefully flew to the autonomous Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, a strip nestled between Armenia, Iran and Turkey that Ankara and Baku want to connect to the rest of Azerbaijan by building a land corridor that would run through southern Armenia.
In 2021, Aliyev threatened to create such a corridor that would create a continuous land bridge between close allies Turkey and Azerbaijan and deprive Armenia of a land border with Iran, “whether Armenia likes it or not.”
The symbolic choice of a site for Monday’s talks, less than a week after Azerbaijani forces entered Nagorno-Karabakh to regain control of the breakaway region, is likely to alarm authorities in Armenia, who have rejected such a land corridor in the past, though to have been theoretically open to the restoration of broken road and rail links.
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At a joint press conference in which neither took questions, President Aliyev complained that Soviet-era authorities had considered part of what he said should have been territory belonging to the Azerbaijan Soviet Republic as land belonging to Armenian Soviet Republic: “The land connection between the main part of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan was thus severed.”
An influential Telegram channel linked to Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians called “Re:public of Artsakh” (Armenia calls Nagorno-Karabakh “Artsakh”) said Aliyev’s words seemed ominous. “Azerbaijan and Turkey’s new target is Syunik (a province in southern Armenia through which such a corridor will pass). They are already openly declaring it. Active preparations for war are underway,” the message said.
Erdogan and Aliyev were scheduled to inspect a newly modernized military facility in Nakhchivan and attend a groundbreaking ceremony for a new gas pipeline from Turkey.
Karabakh Armenians began to disarm
Russia, which has military facilities in Armenia and a defense agreement with Yerevan, is busy with its own war in Ukraine. He is currently at loggerheads with the current Prime Minister of Armenia, whom he considers too pro-Western, and wants to maintain and develop ties with Baku and Ankara.
Erdogan told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday last week, the day Azerbaijan began its military operation to regain control of Karabakh, that there was what he called a “historic opportunity to build peace” in the South Caucasus.
“(But) Armenia did not make the most of this historic chance,” Erdoğan complained. “We expect a comprehensive peace agreement between the two countries (Azerbaijan and Armenia) as soon as possible and promises to be quickly fulfilled, especially for the opening of the Zangezur (land) corridor.”
This was a reference to the terms of the Russian-brokered 2020 ceasefire agreement that ended a 44-day war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. It spoke of unblocking economic and transport links between West Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan, a clause that Baku and Yerevan have since interpreted differently.
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