Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said on October 10 that an agreement has been reached with Iran to use its territory for the construction of a highway and railway to ensure access to its Nakhchivan exclave.
He made the remarks in his address to the participants of the 27th meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Economic Cooperation Organisation (ECO) member states held in Shusha, in the recently reconquered Karabakh region of the country, Trend reported.
"Azerbaijan is also a reliable transit country, and our transportation and logistics infrastructure is available to all the ECO nations,” Aliyev said.
“Given the increased demand for cargo shipping along the East-West route [Eastern Europe and Turkey to Azerbaijan and Central Asia], we aim to increase the throughput capacity of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway from the current 1mn to 5mn tonnes.
“Furthermore, an agreement has been reached with the Islamic Republic of Iran to use this country’s territory to construct a highway and a railway to ensure access to the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.
“Simultaneously, Azerbaijan is working on expanding the throughput capacity of the North-South transportation corridor [Russia to Iran and India],” Aliyev said.
The news of the agreement with Iran for use of its territory for transit of goods from Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan came as Tehran expressed its opposition to the idea of the so-called Zangezur corridor, which would cross Armenia’s Syunik province and effectively disconnect Iran from its partner in the Caucasus.
Earlier in September—with Armenia about to receive tens of thousands of Nagorno-Karabakh refugees pouring over the border following the Azerbaijani military blitz that retook control of their enclave —Erdogan and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev hinted that they would push for Armenia to accept their long desired “Zangezur Corridor”.
This envisaged link would connect mainland Azerbaijan with Turkey via Armenian territory and the Azerbaijani Nakhchivan exclave, and would not be under Armenian control. However, that did not transpire after threats from Tehran that included moving troops close to Azerbaijan’s southern border.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke with reporters accompanying him, saying that the land bridge project could be realised even without the use of Armenian territory. "If Armenia does not pave the way for [the corridor], where will it pass through? It will pass through Iran," Turkish media reported him as saying. "Iran currently considers this positively. So, it would be possible to pass from Iran to Azerbaijan," he added.
RFE/RL noted that a September 17 article on Haqqin.az, a website associated with Azerbaijan's security services, differentiated between a "Western Zangezur Corridor" passing through Armenia’s Syunik province and an "Eastern Zangezur Corridor" taking a route through Iran.
The piece concluded: "If Yerevan continues to delay the opening of the Western Zangezur Corridor, then Azerbaijan will open the Eastern Zangezur Corridor with Iran, which means that Armenia will remain outside of yet another strategic project and will once again be a loser."