Armenia unveils Crossroads of Peace initiative as Silk Road forum kicks off in Georgia

Armenia unveils Crossroads of Peace initiative as Silk Road forum kicks off in Georgia
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan presenting the proposal. / bne IntelliNews
By Tornike Mandaria in Tbilisi October 27, 2023

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan introduced a new plan for regional cooperation called Crossroads of Peace at the Silk Road Forum in Tbilisi,  expressing hope that this initiative would lead to a peace agreement with Azerbaijan and improved relations with Turkey.

Georgia is hosting the Silk Road Forum for the fourth time, bringing together over 2,300 participants from 63 countries. The forum, launched on October 26, is centered on discussions about the Silk Road and the Middle Corridor, which connects Europe and China.

Pashinyan's Crossroads of Peace plan suggests that Azerbaijan and Turkey reopen their land borders and connect through several routes passing through Armenia. It emphasises the importance of protecting territorial integrity and serves as an alternative to Azerbaijan's Zangezur Corridor proposal.

In his speech at the forum, Pashinyan briefly acknowledged the challenges Armenia has faced in relations with Azerbaijan and Turkey over the years. He emphasised the need for peace and outlined the key components of the initiative, including road infrastructure, oil pipelines, and power transmission lines.

The plan envisions reopening land borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey, which have been closed for decades, establishing checkpoints on borders and highways, including two near Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan exclave, on the western border of Azerbaijan, and two near the Turkish border. Pashinyan also wants restoring railway routes from Armenia to Nakhchivan and Turkey.

Pashinyan's plan offers Azerbaijan and Turkey an additional route through Armenia, facilitating trade between these neighboring countries, which currently rely on overland routes through Georgia and Iran.

Notably, Armenia maintains control over the territory, a crucial principle in Pashinyan's proposal. He outlined that infrastructure, such as road, rail, air, must operate within the jurisdiction of the respective countries and each country must ensure customs control and infrastructure security.

Following Azerbaijan regaining control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which had been under Armenia's rule for three decades, Yerevan is in the process of seeking new partners, as the country is dissatisfied with Russia, its traditional ally, alleging that Moscow did not provide the expected support to Armenia and failed to prevent Azerbaijan's actions.  

Armenia still has strong economic ties with Russia and depends on Russian energy supplies, including gas, oil, and nuclear energy. Gazprom also controls the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline.

In his address at the Silk Road forum, Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili again expressed readiness to work with Armenia and Azerbaijan to establish lasting peace in the South Caucasus.

Garibashvili also said that Georgia is collaborating closely with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to enhance infrastructure and streamline procedures on the east-west transport route.

Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan signed a joint venture called Middle Corridor Multimodal, aiming to boost container shipping along the Middle Corridor. The partnership focuses on attracting new block trains, offering efficient services to cargo owners, and streamlining processes, following a "one-window principle".