Syunik and the Geo-Economic Future of the South Caucasus

The recent Azerbaijani border line encroachment towards Syunik should not surprise us at all. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s threats after the war over Artsakh to forcibly open a “corridor” connecting Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave via Syunik, the role of Azerbaijani media in spreading the narrative of Zangezur being “Azerbaijani ancestral land” all fall within the context of the recent escalation. Internationally, the US, Canada and France expressed their concern over Azerbaijan’s violations and called for the withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops. However, as we all know, the real dealmaker in the South Caucasus has always been Russia. The head of the Nagorno-Karabakh Russian peacekeepers Lieutenant-General Rustam Muradov took the initiative to mediate between both sides. Despite their promise, Azerbaijanis later refused to withdraw and negotiations failed. Moreover, on May 16 some Russian forces from the 102nd Russian military base in Gyumri were relocated to the bordering villages in Syunik and Gegharkunik. Russia’s military set up two new military sites in southern Armenia near the Azerbaijani border as an “additional security guarantee” based on acting PM Nikol Pashinyan’s request. Iran is one of the regional powers actively concerned with the developments in Syunik. Tehran’s response to the Azerbaijani border-line encroachments in Syunik was harsh and clear. Economic cooperation with Iran is vital to Armenia, while Tehran may use Armenia as an economic route opening to European markets. Thus any change regarding the internationally recognized borders with Armenia or a de facto loss of Armenian sovereignty over Syunik (bordering Iran) would threaten Iran’s national security and place Iran at the mercy of Turkey and Azerbaijan when it comes to trade routes linking Tehran to Russia and Europe. Moreover, this factor would further instigate pan-Azeri/Turkic nationalism in the region. To read the full story, check out the article օn the Armenian Weekly.


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