Iran on Thursday pledged to complete “as soon as possible” the construction of a new road that will connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave through the Islamic Republic and bypass Armenia.
Azerbaijani and Iranian officials broke ground on the road during a ceremony held on October 7. Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk said afterwards that Baku and Tehran have also agreed to build a similar rail link bypassing Syunik, the sole Armenian province bordering Iran.
Tehran has repeatedly warned against attempts to strip Iran of the common border and transport links with Armenia, responding to Azerbaijani demands for a presumably extraterritorial “corridor” for Nakhichevan.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has implicitly threatened to open the corridor by force. Azerbaijani September 19-20 military offensive in Karabakh raised more fears in Yerevan that Baku will act on those threats.
Earlier in October, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reportedly told a visiting Azerbaijani official the “Zangezur corridor” sought by Baku is “resolutely opposed by Iran.” Aliyev’s top foreign policy aide, Hikmet Hajiyev, said later in October that the corridor “has lost its attractiveness for us” and that Baku is now planning to “do this with Iran instead.”
Raisi and Aliyev discussed the issue on Thursday when they met in Uzbekistan’s capital Tashkent on the sidelines of an Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) summit.
“While expressing his satisfaction with the agreement between the two countries to solve problems of the region, Dr. Raisi emphasized the determination of the Islamic Republic of Iran to complete the Aghband Route as soon as possible to connect the Republic of Azerbaijan to Nakhichevan,” the Iranian president’s office said in a statement on the talks.
Raisi also said that Baku and Tehran are expanding bilateral ties now that “conspiracies by the ill-wishers of the two countries have failed.”
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan continued to publicly press Armenia to open the special corridor. In a speech at the ECO summit, Erdogan stressed the need for Armenia to honor its “obligations to Azerbaijan.”
“It is very important to open in the near future transport routes that will connect Azerbaijan’s western regions to Nakhichevan,” he said.
Erdogan said last week that the corridor rejected by Armenia is important also because it would link Turkey to Central Asia.
Erdogan too met with Raisi in Tashkent. The official Iranian and Turkish readouts of the meeting made no mention of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.