YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — Azerbaijani forces have set up a checkpoint to stop and reportedly tax Iranian commercial trucks using a strategic road that passes through areas along southeastern Syunik province controversially handed over to Azerbaijan after last year’s war.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan ordered Armenian army units and local militias to pull out of those areas one month after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh last November. Pashinyan said that they are located on the Azerbaijani side of Armenia’s Soviet-era border with Azerbaijan, which had never been demarcated due to the Karabakh conflict.
The order, strongly condemned by the Armenian opposition and local government officials, left Azerbaijani forces in control of a 21-kilometer stretch of the main highway connecting Syunik’s capital Kapan to another provincial town, Goris.
The highway, parts of which are now patrolled by Russian soldiers and border guards, remains Armenia’s sole transport link with Iran. Pashinyan and other government officials assured critics in December that Armenians as well as foreigners will continue to pass through its Azerbaijani-controlled section without any restrictions.
Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) reported on Sunday, September 12, that Azerbaijani police units deployed there have started stopping Iranian trucks to check their drivers’ documents and cargos. It said Armenian and Russian border guards are now jointly trying to “resolve the situation.”
Vahe Hakobyan, a senior opposition parliamentarian and former Syunik governor, said on Monday that Azerbaijani officers are also collecting payments from Iranian drivers.