Hello and welcome to the Armenian News Network, Groong, This Conversations on Groong episode is our first Live Show on Clubhouse and hopefully it will be an informative, as well as an enjoyable discussion for all. We will be talking about the politics of opening the paths of communication, lifting blockades, and the rumors, facts, and fallacies around so-called “corridors” through each other’s countries.
This live event was recorded on Tuesday, June 14, 2021.
As part of the November 9th Agreement, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a number of points, one of which was the unblocking of all transportation routes in the region and opening unfettered access between Azerbaijan and Nakhijevan. The specific wording of Article 9 reads as follows:
All economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked. The Republic of Armenia shall guarantee the security of transport connections between the western regions of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic in order to arrange unobstructed movement of persons, vehicles and cargo in both directions. The Border Guard Service of the Russian Federal Security Service shall be responsible for overseeing the transport connections.”
Note that the agreement does not provide for a physical corridor, but rather unfettered access to be overseen by the “FSB.” This point in the agreement has led to much contention and consternation. While Azerbaijan and Turkey have pledged a full opening of borders, Armenia has refused so far to provide the said transportation link.
To talk about these issues, we are joined by:
Dr. Areg Danagulian who is an Associate Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT. He is currently working on new, monochromatic methodologies for cargo screening as well as technologies for nuclear arms control treaty verification via resonant phenomena and physical cryptography.
Emil Sanamyan, a senior research fellow at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies specializing in the politics of the Caucasus.
Perhaps before discussing these contentious issues, it might be useful to look at the history of the closed borders.
The three prior Armenian administrations (LTP, Kocharyan, Sargsyan) while being in disagreements on other issues related to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict have been in complete agreement on the need of open borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan:
● In the 90s LTP’s government had talks (according to Alexander Arzumanyan) with Tansu Ciller’s government, with the later making offers to open the border with Armenia in exchange for some concessions on the Karabakh issue (Arzumanyan claimed that Ciller asked the Armenians to withdraw from Jabrayil).
● During his famous 1998 speech LTP stated that Armenia’s economy would always be hindered by excessively large export transportation costs due to the need to go through Georgia.
● During the Key West Agreement (later reneged on by Heydar Aliyev) Robert Kocharyan agreed to conditions similar to those listed in Article 9.
● Most importantly during Serzh Sargsyan’s government Armenia and Turkey engaged in “soccer diplomacy,” where Erdogan’s and Sargsyan’s governments negotiated about the terms of border opening between Armenia and Turkey. Again, due to nationalist pressures inside Armenia and Turkey this never came to pass.
● Various Armenian governments have also decried the Azeri blockade of Armenia. It is clear that opening of transportation routes through Azerbaijan would significantly reduce transportation costs for Armenian economic exchange with Russia, its main economic partner, and reduce its dependence on Georgia as a transit point (something that is acutely felt during periodic flair ups in Russian-Georgian tensions)
Currently, however, the roles appear to be reversed. Turkey and Azerbaijan are pushing to open the borders, while Armenia is not ready for it. What are the reasons for this?
Azeri president Ilham Aliyev has threatened to go to war to ensure that Article 9 provisions are implemented. PM Pashinyan has slowed down the process, first because Aliyev has reneged on implementing Article 8 (exchange of POWs), and instead has staged incursions directly into Armenia, in the process repeating his demands for a “corridor”, which many in Armenia interpreted as an encroachment on sovereign Armenian land.
● What's the history of negotiations on the opening of the
○ Border between Turkey and Armenia
○ Border between Az and Armenia
○ Nakhijevan and Azerbaijan connection
● What’s fiction and what’s fact?
○ Does E-W communication prevent N-S communication?
○ Does the Azerbaijan-Nakhijevan “connection” for Azerbaijan pose a threat to Armenia?
● What are the pro/con arguments presented, and by who?
○ What are the downsides (at least as quoted by the detractors) of open borders with Turkey/Az for Armenia?
○ What is Russia’s position on opening communications?
● Are there estimates of the benefits to the main sides?
○ Are there financial estimates for opening communications?
○ Who will be the main beneficiaries?
■ Armenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Russia, Georgia, Iran?
● What political causes may or may not be damaged?
○ Artsakh independence or self-determination?
○ Genocide recognition?
● How would the two main contenders in the upcoming election, Pashinyan and Civil Contract, and Kocharyan and the Armenia Alliance, deal with these issues?
● What should be Armenia’s general position to achieve long-term peace with Azerbaijan and Turkey?
That concludes this Conversations On Groong episode. We hope it was helpful in your understanding of some of the issues involved. We look forward to your feedback, including your suggestions for Conversation topics in the future. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. On behalf of everyone in this episode, we wish you a good week. Don’t forget to subscribe to our channels, Like our pages and follow us on social media. Thank you for listening and we’ll talk to you soon.
Areg Danagoulian, Emil Sanamyan, Armenia, Clubhouse, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Artsakh, Nagorno Karabakh, Karabakh, War, November 9, Ceasefire Agreement, Unblocking Communications, Meghri, Nakhijevan, Georgia, Batumi, Iran, Russia,