New highway crisis emerges as Azerbaijan sets up checkpoints on strategic Armenian road

By Emilio Luciano Cricchio

Azerbaijan will set up customs checkpoints along sections of the Goris-Kapan highway in the southern Armenian region of Syunik, Armen Grigoryan, the Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia announced in an interview on November 10. Grigoryan added that Armenia too will set up checkpoints along the highway, too.

“The Azerbaijani side has informed the Armenian side that starting midnight of [November 10], it will set up border-customs controls on the Goris-Kapan highway,” Grigoryan stated.

Griigoryan noted that an alternative route running from Kapan through the southern town of Tatev, and onwards to the Iranian border, is “ready.”

In addition, the roads leading to the villages of Shurnukh, Vorotan and Chakaten are being improved and restored. During a government session on November 11, the Armenian government announced that it will allocate more than $1 million to the restoration of the alternative route going through Tatev to the Iranian border, as well as to another northern highway.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan remarked that “the logic of corridors” is unacceptable for Armenia, implying that it was Baku’s condition that Yerevan should provide a corridor to link Azerbaijan with its exclave of Nakhichevan via Armenia’s Syunik region, in order for Azerbaijan to not to set up checkpoints along the Goris-Kapan highway. Pashinyan reiterated Grigroyan’s remarks that the alternative route through Tatev is now ready, adding that 100 trucks have already passed through that route.

According to Armenian media outlet Hetq, secondary school teachers from Goris working in the village of Bardzravan could not get to work today as the route between Goris and

Bardzravan is now closed.

After the end of the Second Karabakh War and the signing of the November 9, 2020 ceasefire agreement, Armenia made large land handovers to Azerbaijan, including the Lachin, Zangelan and Qubadli regions, which border Armenia’s Syunik region. The Goris-Kapan highway crosses into what was formerly Soviet Azerbaijan in two sections, which were handed over after the 2020 war.

Armenia itself is pursuing the opening of two routes, one through the exclave of Nakhichevan onwards to Iran and another through Azerbaijan proper to Russia.

Russia too has expressed interest in opening up regional transport communications, with some analysts pointing to the possibility that Russian border forces will be deployed along any future route that opens.

On August 25, 2021, Azerbaijani servicemen blocked the Goris-Kapan highway.

By September 13, 2021, Azerbaijani set up police posts along the sections of the Goris-Kapan highway which cross into what was formerly Soviet Azerbaijan.

On September 14, Azerbaijan’s State Customs Committee confirmed that it was levying tolls on Iranian truckers traversing the Goris-Kapan highway. Azerbaijani authorities furthermore detained two Iranian truckers. According to CivilNet reporter Gevorg Tosunyan, a trucker he spoke to was charged $130 to cross the highway.

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