YEREVAN — Armenia and Azerbaijan have not discussed possible transport corridors in Russian-mediated talks on restoring economic links between them after last year’s war, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk said on Monday.
The Russian, Armenian and Azerbaijani governments set up in January a trilateral working group to try to work out practical modalities of opening the Armenian-Azerbaijani border for commercial traffic. The task force co-headed by Overchuk and his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts has met regularly in Moscow since then.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly claimed that the deal envisages a permanent land “corridor” that will connect Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan via Armenia’s Syunik province. He has threatened to forcibly open such a corridor if Yerevan continues to oppose its creation.
Armenian leaders have denounced Aliyev’s threats as territorial claims, saying that the truce accord only calls for transport links between the two South Caucasus states.
“We don’t have corridors [on the working group’s agenda,]” Overchuk told journalists while attending a Russian-Armenian business forum in Yerevan. He said that no such issue is being discussed by the trilateral group.
“We discuss the issue of economic unblocking. The parties have been exchanging views,” added Overchuk.
“All parties are determined to unblock economic and transport links in the region. Of course, we are discussing how to do this, but it is unambiguously clear to everyone that the unblocking and restoration of the transport route will create significant new opportunities for expanding and increasing trade, including between Russia and Armenia. Actually, that’s what we are working for,” the Russian Deputy PM stated.
Speaking about the expected impact of the unblocking on the volume of turnover, Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan said there are two factors that need to be studied.
Grigoryan, said Armenian, Azerbaijani and Russian officials have been exploring “possible infrastructure solutions” and a legal framework for customs and other border controls. He did not give any details.
“We are very interested in the opening of transport links because we see that as an opportunity to overcome the blockade in which Armenia has been more than 25 years,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told Overchuk later in the day. He said he hopes that the ongoing talks will yield “concrete decisions.”