The victory of Azerbaijan at the end of the Second Karabakh War ushered in a new chapter in the Caucasus.
Following the war, the Lachin corridor became crucial in the context of the Karabakh region which is now under the control of a Russian peacekeeping force.
What is the importance of the Lachin corridor across the region?
Read on for answers and an insight.
The victory of Azerbaijan at the end of the Second Karabakh War led to the reshaping of the balance of regional and global dynamics in the South Caucasus.
The war ended with a tripartite agreement between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia but the deal is still not fully implemented due to the conflicts between the two sides.
Azerbaijani environmentalists, representing various nongovernmental organizations, have protested on the Lachin road over the illegal exploitation of natural resources by Armenia in the Karabakh region since Dec. 12. The Karabakh issue came to the fore with the Lachin corridor.
South Caucasus, Karabakh and this region have always been of great importance in terms of their geostrategic location and natural resources with mines. Therefore, regional and global powers do waste no time in taking action to respond to political developments across the region.
The Armenian administration points out that the Lachin corridor is under the control of a Russian peacekeeping force, according to the tripartite agreement on Nov. 10, 2020 but emphasizes that Russia has not fulfilled its duty.
Azerbaijan, on the other hand, argues that Armenia does not respect the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in Karabakh and uses the regional issue as a tool to draw the attention of Western countries to the region.
We can evaluate the political developments in the Lachin corridor as a reflection of global developments in the South Caucasus.
Russia tries to give a message to the Western world through its peacekeeping force in the region.
The sanctions imposed by Western countries due to the Ukraine war have an important role in Russia’s policy in the Caucasus.
For this reason, the Russian policy toward the region can be called a message to the West through its military presence in Karabakh, a former Soviet Union territory.
In addition, Azerbaijan built good relations with countries, especially Israel, as it became the shining star in the global arena by having an important role in the Ukraine war and Second Karabakh War.
For instance, Russia is unhappy about Azerbaijan sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine.
What is Russia’s role in the Lachin corridor?
Russia has an important role in the Lachin corridor. However, tensions in the region where Russia deployed forces show that Moscow struggles to fulfill its duty as a peacekeeper.
Apparently, Russia talks with the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders to solve problems in successful implementation of the cease-fire agreement. We should point out that after the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) summit last December in the Russian city of St. Petersburg, Putin had a trilateral meeting with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan.
However, the main problem for Russia is the discomfort with the policies of the UK, US and EU regarding the Ukraine war.
While Russia targets Western interests in the Caucasus region, it also tries to expand its influence in the region just like it did in the Ukraine war.
However, this time Russia has more challenges.
Azerbaijan became an important actor in alternative energy routes and established relations with the Western world, which may cause Russia to be a little more cautious.
Russia’s policy in the Lachin corridor has effects on the Türkiye and Armenia relations. “The latest developments in the Lachin corridor will be a test for sincerity of Armenia,” said Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
He pointed out that if the problem continues, it will negatively affect bilateral ties.
So, the Lachin corridor plays a key role in Russia’s relations with the West as well as in relations between Türkiye and Armenia and Azerbaijan and Armenia.
It should not be forgotten that the problem can harm the normalization process between Türkiye and Armenia. It is also worth noting that the Ankara-Yerevan ties are progressing in coordination with the normalization of Baku-Yerevan relations.
What are the policies of European countries and Iran on Karabakh?
The perspectives of the West and EU member states on the Karabakh issue have a vital importance in shaping the problem. While the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe did not take an initiative to find a solution to the problem during the 30-year Armenian occupation, there was a serious change in the Western countries’ policy toward the region after clashes erupted in the Lachin corridor and on the border last September and the EU sent a mission to the Azerbaijan-Armenia border.
Besides the EU, other regional actors such as Iran have an important role in the Lachin corridor.
When we look at Iran’s relations with Armenia in the post-Soviet period, it is interesting to see similarities between policies of Iran and the EU, especially France, toward Armenia.
It can be said that Türkiye’s mediation role and geopolitical influence increased across the region with the Second Karabakh and Ukraine wars. This may be a reason for France’s negative attitude toward Azerbaijan.
In addition, it should not be forgotten that the historical prejudice in the perception of Turkish people in the EU and Iran has a significant effect on the policies of those countries.
Yildiz Deveci Bozkus, is a professor at Ankara University focusing on the Caucasus, Armenian foreign policy and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.