The unblocking of Armenia’s borders with neighboring states could actually harm Russia's position in the region - Expert | Eurasia Diary -

5 March, Friday

The unblocking of Armenia’s borders with neighboring states could actually harm Russia's position in the region - Expert

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The trilateral statement of 11 January signed by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia following four hour meetings held in Moscow in relation to the unblocking of all economic and transport communications between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Eurasia Diary conducted an interview with Emil Avdaliani, Professor at European University in Tbilisi, Georgia regarding the prospects of the trilateral statement of 11 January for the new economic circumstances in the South Caucasus.  

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What is a necessity of the trilateral statement to the strengthening of economic stability and prosperity in the region?

The statement was meant to show that Russia is firmly in charge of the post-war situation on the ground in Karabakh. This involves displaying Russia’s unshakeable military position and Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s willingness to cooperate with the Moscow. It also indicates that Russia sidelined the Western powers from the negotiation process and the only regional power it cooperates with is Turkey, which also experiences problems with the West.

Surely, the trilateral meeting in Moscow was also meant to work out the details behind the November 2020 agreement which ended the Second Karabakh War. We do not know much about the details Aliyev, Pashinyan and Putin discussed behind the closed doors, but it is safe to say that Russia is interested in pursuing the opening of new communication lines as a part of its aims to penetrate the South Caucasus and reach the Iranian and Turkish borders. This is important for economic reasons, but I believe a military component too is not less crucial, though it is doubtful that Azerbaijan will allow Russian arms be transited through its territory to Armenia.

The improvement of connectivity is always a good development. Armenia could benefit economically and some negotiations with Turkey could re-start as Baku might have fewer reasons to protest such a development. But much will depend on internal situation in Armenia and whether Russia is happy with Armenia-Turkey rapprochement. From a geopolitical point of view, a total unblocking of Armenia’s borders with the neighboring states could actually harm Russia’s position.

What will be attitude of Georgia and Turkey to this trilateral statement?

Georgia is worried that changes to the region’s connectivity patterns could damage the country’s transit potential. It held a near monopoly so far for regional infrastructure transit and the latest trilateral meeting in Moscow underlined the trend towards potential changes. Therefore, Georgia watched the trilateral summit with caution.

Turkey, I believe, regarded the summit positively. Surely, Ankara wanted to be at the negotiating table in Moscow, but overall the Turkish leadership sees that the statement once again underlined the necessity to open the corridor from the Nakhchivan exclave to the rest of Azerbaijan. As Turkey has already announced railway and pipeline projects to Nakhchivan, the emerging corridor would give Ankara a way to anchor its influence on the Caspian Sea.

Some experts noted that the restoration of economic and transport communications between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be impossible until the full settlement of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. What do you think about this?

I believe a long-term solution to the conflict is necessary to have a whole-scale development of new communication and trade routes. However, this would not entirely prevent the operation of the announced railway lines and trade corridors. Tensions will be there as Baku would not be happy with Armenia having a direct railway connection with Russia especially through Azerbaijan itself. But Russian pressure could be instrumental in forcing Baku and Yerevan to cooperate, however unrealistic this might sound presently.

The problem with the new transport communication lines is that without Russian involvement they would quickly cease to operate. All is contingent upon Azerbaijan’s benevolence as new railway lines to Armenia go through its territory.

Interviewed by Yunis Abdullayev

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