By Artak Khulian
YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Citing increased drug trafficking and other illegal cross-border activities, Russian border guards controlling Armenia’s border with Iran have set up checkpoints along several roads in the country’s southern Syunik province.
Images of such checkpoints along the road linking Meghri to other towns appeared on the internet earlier this week, raising speculations about possible preparations for the opening of transit routes for Azerbaijan via the strategic mountainous region.
Syunik is the Armenian province through which Azerbaijan expects to get a highway and railroad connection with its western exclave of Nakhichevan under the terms of the Russia-brokered 2020 ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh. Under the document, Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) is to ensure the security of traffic along the transport routes in Armenia for Azerbaijan.
Yerevan insists that it should maintain sovereignty over the roads, while Baku is seeking an extraterritorial status for them amounting to a corridor similar to the Russia-controlled Lachin corridor that connects Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh.
At a government session on August 4, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan again implicitly rejected the corridor logic for the unblocking of regional transport routes, saying that Azerbaijan even today can use all parts of Armenia, and not only Syunik, for transit purposes in accordance with Armenian legislation.