During a summit of the Eurasian Economic Union in Moscow on Thursday Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan publicly sparred over the use of the word “Zangezur corridor” by President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, who was invited to take part in the gathering as a guest.
The verbal scuffle stated when Pashinyan interrupted Russian President Vladimir Putin’s closing remarks to voice his objection over Aliyev’s use of “Zangezur Corridor” to describe Baku’s long-standing insistence to have a road linking Azerbaijan with Nakhichevan through Armenia proper.
Pashinyan said that Aliyev’s use of the term signals that Azerbaijan has aspirations or demands toward Armenia’s sovereign territory.
“I would like to emphasize that the [November 9, 2020] Declaration mentions only one corridor, and it is the Lachin corridor, which was supposed to be under the control of Russian peacekeepers, but, unfortunately, is illegally blocked by Azerbaijan. On the other hand, I want to confirm the readiness of the Republic of Armenia to unblock all transport and economic connections and communications in the region that pass through the territory of the Republic of Armenia — we call it the ‘Armenian Crossroads’ and we are ready to open regional communications within the framework of the sovereignty and jurisdiction of those countries through which they pass. I mean the transport and economic communications mentioned in point 9 of the trilateral declaration of November 9, 2020 and the trilateral statement of January 11, 2021,” Pashinyan told the EEU summit.
Aliyev did not leave Pashinyan’s response unanswered.
“Of course, I don’t want to start a debate, but since an accusation was made here that we have territorial demands from Armenia, I must state that we have no such ambitions. You have to make a lot of effort and have a very active imagination to infer territorial claims in my words. As for the word ‘corridor’ that I used, I use the same word when talking about the ‘North-South’ corridor. The word ‘corridor’ is not an encroachment on anyone’s territory,” said Aliyev, who also claimed that Russia supported Baku’s plan for the so-called “Zangezur Corridor.”
“It is very interesting to know that Russia supports the project you mentioned. To be honest, this is the first time I and hearing about it,” Pashinyan fired back at Aliyev saying that he is aware about Russia’s position and support about opening all transport and economic routes in the region.
“You called it ‘Lachin road.’ But according to our trilateral declaration, a ‘Lachin road’ does not exist. There is a corridor which, according to the trilateral declaration signed by three of us, should be under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces. That is, no one else should exercise any control of this corridor,” Pashinyan continued to respond to Aliyev.
“And what is happening there is a direct violation of the trilateral declaration. And you said that the corridor is open, but we don’t see it. We don’t think so. Therefore, we consider it important that an international fact-finding mission be sent to both the Lachin Corridor and Nagorno Karabakh to assess the humanitarian situation in Nagorno Karabakh,” Pashinyan emphasized.
“And I must say that, unfortunately, we have a humanitarian crisis there since December, because due to the closure of the Lachin corridor, obstacles are created for the supply of food and other necessities. And this is a very serious situation. Gas and electricity have also been blocked by Azerbaijan. I mean the gas and electricity going to Nagorno Karabakh,” Pashinyan said, announcing that the Russian president is fully aware of the blockade situation.
The verbal scuffle between Pashinyan and Aliyev lasted about 10 minutes as the leaders of the other EEU member-states looked on.
“‘Corridor,’ ‘road,’ all of those are important issues, while there are contradictions in them,” Putin said in an effort to put an end to the argument.
“However, what is much more important is what both the President of Azerbaijan and the Prime Minister of Armenia talked about a little while ago: that there is an agreement on a fundamental issue,— the issue of territorial integrity — which is indeed, fundamental,” Putin said.