While Armenia’s titular ally, the Russian Federation, is distracted by many incidents on its borders, Azerbaijan has been creating facts on the ground to make a final settlement with Armenia difficult or even impossible.

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has stated that the defeated Armenia is a broken nation and it has to accept that fact and negotiate from that position. This is the mentality of Armenia’s enemy, which claims in international fora that it brings peace to the region.

Besides its 44-day war against Armenia in 2020, Azerbaijan had been conducting a war of attrition for the last 30 years and continues that war even after the ceasefire on November 9, 2020.

The main goal of that war of attrition is to render Armenia and Karabakh uninhabitable so that it can take over those territories.

Since Armenia became independent, 800,000 citizens have left it. Before the second Karabakh war, the population in that entire enclave was estimated to be 140,000. As of today, fewer than 90,000 of the displaced Karabakh Armenians have returned there, while beleaguered Armenia is extending massive support for rehabilitation and resettlement.

Since the signing of the trilateral ceasefire by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, Armenia’s borders were incident-free only for four days.

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On the first anniversary of the ceasefire, a new agreement was supposed to be signed, reflecting the results of the work and the eight sessions of the three countries’ deputy prime ministers. That agreement was to follow the process of demarcation and delimitation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, based on the maps provided by the Russian military. Both the agreement and the border work have been delayed indefinitely, while Azerbaijan’s provocations into Armenia proper continue.

After the ceasefire, a 21-kilometer section of the Goris-Kapan road came under Azerbaijani control. Baku rushed to set up checkpoints on that road to render it prohibitively expensive for Iranian cargo trucks. Armenia decided to build an alternative route to bypass the Azerbaijani checkpoints, but that road still is under construction. Before Armenia could catch up with that Azerbaijani obstructionism, Baku blocked another road between Chakaten and Goris, turning a 10-minute trip for Armenia’s citizens into a three-hour one through rural roads.

As if those provocations were not enough, Baku resorted to a new border incursion. Indeed, on November 14, Azerbaijani armed forces invaded Armenia’s sovereign territory in one of the eastern sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in Syunik.

A communique issued by the Security Council of Armenia states: “Due to the actions of the Azerbaijani armed forces, four combat positions of the Armenian armed forces were besieged. As a result of negotiations, the Azerbaijani military equipment and troops that invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia left the territory of Armenia. The units of the Armenian armed forces have been withdrawn from the aforementioned four combat positions. Nevertheless, the Azerbaijani servicemen who have invaded Armenia’s sovereign territory since May of this year continue to be deployed in the aforementioned section.”

There were rumors that Armenian forces were ordered not to shoot but that issue became an academic one when the invasion triggered a ministerial crisis in Armenia.

Most probably the Azerbaijani side was itching for retaliation to justify a full-scale invasion, but Armenia prudently avoided that faceoff.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan replaced Minister of Defense Arshak Karapetyan with Suren Papikyan, an academic with no military experience.

Opposition critics, even friends of the administration, have been blaming Pashinyan for giving in to Azerbaijani provocations and the prime minister’s response is that if Armenia does not offer minor concessions on border issues, Azerbaijan will force the issue of the Zangezur Corridor. However, Aliyev is using every possible forum to raise the issue of the Zangezur Corridor, even after Russian Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk visited Yerevan and assured the leaders that all the roads and communication lines opened will remain under the jurisdiction of their respective countries. That statement was also confirmed by the Russian Foreign Ministry, based on the results of the work and negotiations of three nations’ deputy prime ministers.

The US side was no less confident that the issue of the corridor would not infringe on Armenia’s sovereignty.

Writing in the National Interest, Michael Rubin states, “Initially, there was optimism among Turks and in Central Asia that vehicular traffic from Nakhichevan, an Azerbaijani exclave separated from the rest of Azerbaijan by Armenia’s Zangezur corridor, could revive the moribund economy in eastern Turkey and expand trade and tourism across Central Asia. Aliyev’s cocky belligerence soon quashed that possibility. ‘The creation of the Zangezur corridor fully meets our national, historical, and future interests. We will be implementing the Zangezur corridor, whether Armenia wants it or not,’ he said earlier this year on Azerbaijan’s state-controlled television. That Secretary of State Antony Blinken certified that Azerbaijan had committed itself to diplomacy and eschewed military force just two days after Aliyev made his threat demonstrates either State Department incompetence or a deliberate violation by Blinken of the Freedom Support Act.”

Regardless of what the Russian Foreign Ministry states or US Secretary of State Blinken reassures, Azerbaijan continues to insist on the issue of the corridor.

On November 11, the foreign ministers of the newly renamed Organization of Turkic States, formerly called the Turkic Council or the Cooperation Council of Turkic Speaking States, met in Istanbul, where Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov took the podium to blast Armenia and assured his audience that “The joint statement by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia on November 10, 2020 was further processed by the adoption of a trilateral statement on January 11, 2021, which refers to unblocking of communications in the region. Concrete steps are being taken to unblock the transport roads, including the very important Zangezur Corridor, which will contribute to the growth of trade in the region. We hope that the colleagues of the Turkic Council will also use these opportunities.”

In addition to its position on the corridor issue, the Turkic Council summit meetings of this organization provide a stage where another mockery takes place. The participating states include Azerbaijan, Turkey, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan (observer) and Hungary (observer). Some of these states (Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan) are also members of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) headed by Russia. While Armenia’s security council was reaching out to its “allies” on the CSTO for help against the recent Azerbaijani aggression, the representatives of several of those countries were in Istanbul congratulating Azerbaijan on the anniversary of its “victory over Armenia.” This is proper material for the theater of the absurd.

Incidentally, the Turkic Council was initially proposed by Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in 2006 [initiated by Nursultan Nazarbayev of Kazakhstan in 1992] to bring together the Turkic-speaking nations linguistically and culturally, and founded in Nakhichevan in 2009.

Last year, the president of the council was Azerbaijan and this year, the presidency was turned over to Turkey. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan first proposed to change the name of the council to the Organization of Turkic States and converted its focus from cultural and linguistic matters to political, beginning with seeking help in his war against the PKK. Indeed, Mr. Bayramov was inviting the councils’ fellow members to use the Zangezur Corridor for doing so.

It was no wonder that during the victory parade in Baku on December 10, 2020, Erdogan exalted Enver Pasha, whose dream was to create a Turkic empire extending to Central Asia.

With these proposed changes to the council, Mr. Erdogan is on the path to realize Enver Pasha’s vision.

The issue of the corridor had ruffled some feathers in Iran. Currently, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavusoglu is in Tehran to mend some fences. President Erdogan is also expected in the Iranian capital to reinforce the mission.

Iran earlier had warned that any border changes in the Caucasus was considered a red line. As Iran is returning to the negotiation table for its nuclear deal, Ankara is looking to see what it can offer Tehran to change the colors of that red line to facilitate Baku’s march toward the Zangezur Corridor.

As the voices of Russia and the US become mere lip service, Turkey and Azerbaijan may move with impunity to force on Armenia the issue of the corridor, which will compromise that country’s sovereignty, escalating a border incident into an existential threat.

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