The photos below show the section of the road bypassing the city of Lachin in the Berdadzor region of Artsakh. I took the first photo on July 24, on my way to Karabakh, and the second on July 30, on my way back from Karabakh. The second photo shows that the road is already paved and ready for use.
Let’s summarize what happened last week and why.
On August 1, Azerbaijan breached the line of contact in the northwestern part of the Martakert region and in the south, in the direction of the Lachin Corridor. After three days of clashes, the Armenian side had at least two dead and about two dozen wounded.
On August 2, Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan announced that Azerbaijan has made a demand to organize traffic through the Lachin Corridor using a new road. Earlier, on June 30, Harutyunyan said “we have to leave Berdzor (Lachin), and we will continue negotiations and the struggle to keep Aghavno.”
According to the November 9, 2020 statement between the leaders of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, “to ensure the connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, a plan for the construction of a new route along the Lachin Corridor will be approved in the next three years, after which Russian peacekeeping troops will be redeployed to protect this route.” In other words, it was not about building a new road within a three-year period, but just deciding on a new route.
At a cabinet meeting on August 4, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan criticized the Russian peacekeeping troops in Karabakh, stating that “cases of physically and psychologically intimidating the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh in the presence of peacekeepers are simply unacceptable.” He also said that, currently, there is no trilateral plan for the construction of a road by Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan, despite the fact that Armenia has proposed it several times and continues to do so. Pashinyan noted that the Armenian side has not agreed to any plan for the new road, but has already started rebuilding the road that lies within Armenia and runs from the village of Tegh to the village of Kornidzor and on to the border, which, he says, will connect to the new route.
I already asked the Armenian government a number of questions in a previous column (Was there an agreement to hand over Berdzor early? Questions to the Armenian government). Let me repeat some of those questions.
- If there was no agreement to hand over the city of Lachin earlier than the three-year period stipulated in the November 9 statement, why did Azerbaijan build a 30-kilometer bypass road on its territory that should be handed over to Armenians?
- Why and based on what agreement did Azerbaijan build the road not only in territories under its control, but also in the Armenian-controlled territory, near the villages of Hin Shen and Mets Shen?
- Why did Azerbaijan demand Lachin immediately after the completion of the road, and why did the Armenian side immediately agree to Azerbaijan’s demand to hand over the city of Lachin and the villages of Aghavno and Nerkin Sus, all located along the existing corridor, by August 25?
- If there was no agreement on handing over the city of Lachin early (read: in July 2022), why does the Armenian government cave in to Azerbaijan’s demand and announce that it will build an 8-kilometer road in the Kornidzor section by the spring of 2023?
- Is it true that, before the construction of the Tegh-Kornidzor section, Armenia will also build a 3-kilometer road that will connect the beginning of the existing Lachin corridor to the 30 km road built by Azerbaijan, but that also bypasses the city of Lachin? Is it possible that this road, too, will be handed over to Azerbaijan in the future?
The statements of the Armenian government contradict the logic of its actions and the situation. It can be firmly stated that Pashinyan’s government had given a certain agreement to hand over the city of Lachin to Azerbaijan, or at least to agree to the new route connecting Artsakh and Armenia before the three-year stipulation.
CivilNet columnist Benyamin Poghosyan considers it controversial that the Armenian authorities are trying to blame their new concessions to Azerbaijan on the Russians.
By analyzing last week’she events, we can make the following conclusions:
- The Armenian authorities were unable to stay within the framework of the November 9 statement, caved into Azerbaijan’s demands in the negotiations, and agreed to both the new route bypassing Lachin and to hand over the city of Lachin and the villages of Aghavno and Nerkin Sus after the route is build. Here, it is especially important to note that Pashinyan’s government was not able to get the road connecting Armenia and Artsakh built in parallel with the rebuilding of the infrastructure passing through it: electric power lines, a gas pipeline and Internet cable. Now road traffic will be organized via a new route, while the infrastructure will remain under the control of Azerbaijan.
- Having agreed to the route of the new road, as well as to hand over Lachin, Aghavno, and Nerkin Sus after its construction, Armenia has not done anything in the meantime to build its own section of the road, which would connect to the road already built by Azerbaijan. Now the Armenian government is taking hasty and random actions, which deepen the uncertainty for the people living in Artsakh.
- Most importantly, Pashinyan’s government, by not taking practical steps to fulfill its infamous pledge (regardless of if it was verbal or written), has sparked a new border escalation, which resulted in at least two casualties and about two dozen injured on the Armenian side.
One can endlessly blame Azerbaijan, whose international importance, by the way, for both the Russians and the West has significantly increased after the Ukrainian war. One can blame Russia, which, according to Armenia’s claims, does not properly fulfill its duties to protect the security of the Armenians of Artsakh.
The fact, however, is that the Armenian government has failed to make a sober assessment of the situation that has led to the current deadlock and loss of human lives.