Following the talks on Karabakh in Moscow, Putin, Aliyev, and Pashinyan signed a statement on the establishment of transport and economic ties in the Transcaucasian region. It essentially clarifies and develops the point of the trilateral ceasefire statement signed on the night of November 9-10, 2020, which refers to the unblocking of all economic and transport links in the region. However, this was perceived ambiguously in Armenia.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev specified that now his country will have communication with the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic through transport communications through the territory of Armenia. Let us recall that the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic is a part of Azerbaijan, separated from the main part of the country by the territory of Armenia. Before the Karabakh conflict, Nakhichevan was connected with the main territory of Azerbaijan by rail. Aliyev also promised that Armenia will now have a railway connection to Russia and Iran through the territory of Azerbaijan.
Aram Sargsyan, chairman of the Democratic Party of Armenia, commented on the results of the negotiations.
– They say in Armenia that today a new version of the so-called “Goble plan” is being implemented in Transcaucasia. What is this plan?
– It was proposed in 1992-1993 for the settlement of the conflict in Karabakh. Paul Goble is an American diplomat who suddenly decided to become a benefactor of Armenia and give it Nagorno-Karabakh in exchange for Meghri. As if Karabakh was not Armenian anyway. Then this plan was rejected because the Armenian public opposed it. Its implementation, in fact, meant the end of Armenia’s independence. The link between Azerbaijan and Turkey by land will lead to the creation of a new Turkish state. This is a direct road to unite the entire Turkish world. Naturally, this option did not suit us. Now this plan has grown in a different version. This is of great concern to us.
– Why? Is unblocking communications bad?
– Let’s start with the fact that we remain in the “Turkish bag”. Turkey and Azerbaijan can close this passage at any time. And we have no other alternative. We must rely on the goodwill of the Turkish side.
Second. In economic terms, today Armenia cannot compete with the Turkish economy. This raises concerns that our small and medium-sized businesses will “drown” in this flow of cheap, low-quality Turkish goods. And our big business also cannot be compared with the Turkish one.
Thirdly, in connection with the opening of these communications, serious geopolitical changes will take place. In 1998, my group was working on a project for a railway track that would transport European cargo through Ukraine, Russia, Abkhazia and Georgia, Armenia, Nakhichevan, and Iran towards the Persian Gulf. This project aroused great interest from all partners, including China. Because through Tehran one could go to Ashgabat, and from there – the road to China.
It was cost-effective for everyone except Britain. At a meeting with me, the British Ambassador asked if we would agree that this road would pass not through Russia, but through Istanbul. I said that we would agree with this if the railway through the Russian Federation would operate in parallel. At that, the program was stopped. Now, this is a truncated part of that program. It will not benefit Armenia, and in the future, it will not benefit Russia either.
– But Aliyev promises that this plan will ensure communications between Russia and Armenia.
“Promises are one thing, reality is another. Even in Soviet times, trains going through Nakhichevan from Armenia were thrown with stones and came with broken glass. The same thing happened in Azerbaijan, even during the earthquake in Armenia when humanitarian supplies were going there.
Our historical memory prevents us from taking the Turks at their word. We believe that this program is a big mistake, and we are not ready for it, based on our economic and social conditions.
And the last thing. We cannot come to terms with the fact that Pashinyan said at a press conference that he failed to resolve the issue of prisoners of war, missing and exchange of bodies of the dead. This is humiliation, which he apparently does not realize himself. If the issue has not been resolved, which should have already been resolved in two months, then it is impossible to sign the next statement. Before signing anything, he had to insist on the implementation of these agreements. Today in Armenia this evokes the most serious indignation.
– Aliyev insists that unblocking transport corridors is beneficial for Armenia as well. Is this so and is there an alternative path for passing communications?
– We had the opportunity to go towards Kars through the Armenian city of Gyumri by rail, which has not been working for 30 years since Turkey announced a blockade of Armenia after the outbreak of the conflict in Karabakh. Through Gyumri we go by rail to the border of Nakhichevan, we pass it, we leave again on the territory of Armenia, this is the Syunik region. Then, through the city of Meghri, trains can get to Azerbaijan (this is the so-called “Meghri corridor”). Armenia can go through Azerbaijan to Russia in the same way. But for us, these are empty promises, because all this can be stalled. We know that Turkey, under any pretext, will promote its global program of unification of the Turkish world.