ANKARA –Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan criticized Iran on Wednesday for strongly opposing the “Zangezour Corridor,” which would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave through Armenia.
“Iran’s approach to this issue disappoints us and Azerbaijan,” Erdogan said while speaking to reporters on his way back from Baku.
“I wish that we can overcome this problem soon. If Iran would approach this positively, then Turkey-Azerbaijan-Iran would be linked to each other, and we can have a ‘Beijing-London’ line through land and railroads,” he added.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei emphasized this stance when he met with Erdogan in Tehran last July. The Turkish leader claimed that, unlike Tehran, Yerevan does not object to the idea of the “Zangezur corridor,” which he discussed with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev during his trip to Baku.
Erdogan praised the visit by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to Ankara to attend his inauguration as the 13th president of Turkey in early June.
“Pashinyan’s acceptance of our invitation was an important step. Mr. Pashinyan attended our ceremony after overcoming a lot of obstacles stemming from the opposition in his country,” he said.
Pashinyan’s government regularly rejects Azerbaijani demands for such a corridor and says it can only agree to conventional transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan. It has specifically made clear that Azerbaijani citizens and cargo passing through Syunik cannot be exempt from Armenian border controls.
Pashinyan and Aliyev openly argued about the matter during a Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) summit in Moscow on May 25. Nevertheless, the deputy prime ministers of Armenia, Azerbaijan, as well as Russia, reportedly made major progress on practical modalities of a rail link between Nakhichevan and the rest of Azerbaijan during a subsequent meeting held in the Russian capital.
Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk met with Pashinyan and his Armenian counterpart, Mher Grigorian, in Yerevan on Wednesday for further discussions on the thorny issue. An Armenian government statement said they focused on the “restoration of railway communication” and “border and customs controls based on the sovereignty and equal jurisdiction of the parties,” but it did not elaborate.