Azerbaijan and Turkey talks on Armenia land corridor raise new invasion fears

Karabakh refugees have crossed into Armenia, fearing ethnic cleansing in their former home
Karabakh refugees have crossed into Armenia, fearing ethnic cleansing in their former home - Alain Jocard/AFP

Azerbaijan’s president has held talks with his Turkish counterpart on creating a land corridor between their countries via Armenia, raising fears of another invasion.

Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, suggested the idea – which Armenia opposes – with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish leader, on Monday, according to Reuters.

It came as thousands of Karabakh refugees crossed into Armenia, laden with all their belongings as they fled a feared round of ethnic cleansing in their former home.

Azerbaijan launched an operation on Sept 19 to seize control of Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing the separatists to lay down their arms under the terms of a ceasefire agreed the following day.

Armenian officials say that more than 6,000 people have arrived from Nagorno-Karabakh so far, with the numbers continuing to rise on Monday night.

“We lived through terrible days,” said Anabel Ghulasyan, 41, from the village of Rev, which is known as Shalva in Azeri.

Leaders of Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey hailed Baku’s victory on Monday. Mr Erdogan flew into Azerbaijan’s autonomous Nakhchivan exclave, a strip of territory between Armenia, Iran and Turkey that Ankara and Baku wish to link together.

The process would involve carving out a land corridor that would run through southern Armenia, fuelling concerns that further military action by Azerbaijani forces against Armenia could occur in the near future.

Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, held talks with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish leader
Ilham Aliyev, the president of Azerbaijan, held talks with Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish leader - Roman Ismayilov/Shutterstock

At a joint news conference, Mr Aliyev complained that Soviet-era authorities had deemed part of what he said should have been territory belonging to the Azerbaijani Soviet republic as land belonging to the Armenian Soviet republic. “The land link between the main part of Azerbaijan and Nakhchivan [the exclave] was thus cut off,” said Mr Aliyev.

The symbolic choice of location for Monday’s talks, less than a week after Azerbaijani forces swept into Nagorno-Karabakh to retake control of the breakaway region, may worry authorities in Armenia.

They have in the past rejected such a land corridor while being theoretically open to restoring severed road and rail links.

Republic of Artsakh, an influential Telegram channel linked to Karabakh Armenians, said that Mr Aliyev’s words seemed ominous.

Armenian officials say that more than 6,000 people have arrived from Nagorno-Karabakh so far
Armenian officials say that more than 6,000 people have arrived from Nagorno-Karabakh so far - Twitter

“The new target of Azerbaijan and Turkey is Syunik [a province in southern Armenia through which such a corridor would pass]. They are already openly declaring it. Active preparations for war are underway,” it said.

In 2021, Mr Aliyev threatened to create such a corridor, which would create a contiguous land bridge between Turkey and Azerbaijan and deprive Armenia of a land border with Iran, “whether Armenia likes it or not”.

Mr Erdogan told the UN General Assembly last Tuesday, the day that Azerbaijan began its military operation to retake control of Karabakh, that there was what he called “an historic opportunity to build peace” in the South Caucasus region.

“[But] Armenia is not making the most of this historical chance,” Mr Erdogan said.