Azerbaijani border post on the Goris-Kapan road. Photo via ombudsman.am.

Azerbaijani-Controlled Road ‘Safe For Armenians’

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YEREVAN (RFE/RL) — Armenians can safely use an Azerbaijani-controlled section of the main highway that connects Armenia to Iran, a senior security official in Yerevan insisted on Monday, November 1.

The 21-kilometer section is part of contested border areas along Armenia Syunik province which were controversially handed over to Azerbaijan following last year war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijani forces set up a checkpoint there on September 12 to tax Iranian commercial trucks transporting cargo to and from Armenia. The move caused serious disruptions in Armenian-Iranian trade operations and raised tensions in Baku’s relations with Tehran.

Officials in Syunik accused Azerbaijani officers of bullying some Armenian drivers and their passengers at the same section of the road that also connects the Syunik towns of Goris and Kapan. Later in September, Russian and Armenian border guards reportedly began escorting Armenian vehicles driving through it.

“It is safe,” said Aram Hakobyan, a deputy head of the Armenian National Security Service (NSS). “I was there yesterday, it’s very safe.”

“True, representatives of the neighboring state [Azerbaijan] are standing there but they do not stop Armenian citizens,” he told reporters.

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Commenting on incidents that are still periodically reported from the Goris-Kapan highway, Hakobyan said: “I have no such information.”

The Azerbaijani roadblock left the Armenian government scrambling to speed up the reconstruction of an alternative Syunik highway bypassing the border area. The government has assured senior Iranian officials that it will be essentially completed by the end of November.

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