A week after Azerbaijan seized Nagorno-Karabakh, residents in Armenia exclaves worry whether their hometowns will face a similar fate. Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, in the nineties and in 2020.
This year, after Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive, Baku took total control of the region that lies within its borders. Up until a few months ago, it was dominated by ethnic Armenians. Now, most residents have fled to Armenia. After the second Karabakh War, which ended with an agreement facilitated by Russia, Armenia agreed to allow a land connection between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan.
While Azerbaijan and Russia claim that the road was meant to be outside of Armenia’s control, overseen by the Russian Federal Security Service, or FSB, Armenia rejects this interpretation. In Yerevan’s view, the agreement was made at the time when Azerbaijan was blocking Armenia’s only land connection to Nagorno-Karabakh and was meant as part of mutual concessions. But as Azerbaijan began a nine-month blockade of the area in December 2022, effectively cutting ethnic Armenians off the outside world, and eventually recapturing the area, Armenia does not feel obliged to meet its part of the agreement.
That is despite Azerbaijan’s claim that it can only benefit from the deal. “Armenia will be able to benefit from the developing trade in the region and all trade projects that are likely to be realised in the future,” Kanan Heydarov, a political analyst from Azerbaijan said.
“It will be able to make great economic gains. As it is known, Armenia has not been able to benefit from many big trade projects developed in the region so far.” In recent years, Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, began to refer to Armenia as “Western Azerbaijan”. He also started calling for the creation of the “Zangezur Corridor”, a highway linking Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan along the former Soviet rail track. “The Zangezur Corridor is a historical necessity,” Aliyev said last January adding that it will be created whether Armenia wants it or not.
Earlier, in 2021, the President threatened to establish it by force. Following Azerbaijan’s victory over Nagorno-Karabakh, which led to an almost full exodus of its Armenian population, locals—and some experts—fear that Azerbaijan might bring its plan to life by force.