Türkiye pins high hopes on the Zangezur corridor as an essential route linking East and West
    Analysis by Caliber.Az

    ANALYTICS  14 September 2023 - 15:08

    Khazar Akhundov

    The Ukrainian conflict has caused huge damage to transport and logistics schemes created over decades on the Eurasian continent. Today, both the European Union, Central Asian (CA) countries, China, and Russia are looking for alternative routes for the transshipment of goods in the eastern and southern directions. Almost all of them, even the conflicting parties, seek to use Azerbaijan's transport potential, seeing it as an optimal solution to these challenges.

    Accordingly, Baku is accelerating the construction of steel highways and road infrastructure of the Zangezur corridor. Similar work is underway in Türkiye, where, as Transport and Infrastructure Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu noted, the Turkish segment of the Zangezur corridor will be ready for operation in the coming months.

    Throughout its history, the South Caucasus has been a crossroads of civilisations and trade routes, one of the main geo-economic hubs of the vast Eurasian continent. After Baku's victory in the 44-day Patriotic War and the liberation of our country's territories from occupation, favourable prerequisites have emerged for fuller use of this geographical potential, for which, however, communications between Armenia and Azerbaijan need to be unblocked.

    It is also obvious that Azerbaijan is becoming a key beneficiary of the changes in the transport and logistics realities of the South Caucasus that have been taking place in recent years. Thus, the number of applications from freight forwarders and logistics companies from Europe, Central Asian states, Russia, China, and recently even from carriers from Pakistan, Japan, and other South-East Asian countries, offering to establish transit traffic through our country via the Middle Corridor, in particular such an important component as the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (TITR), has increased significantly.

    It is noteworthy that a special role in the development of prospective transit routes through the territory of Azerbaijan is assigned to the Zangezur corridor, which is designed to connect mainland Azerbaijan with the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (NAR), at the same time creating a new transport alternative for the expansion and diversification of international freight traffic along the East-West and North-South vectors.

    Given the negative geopolitical changes due to the war in Ukraine and the urgent need of the countries of the region for alternative trade and transport corridors, all work on the construction of the Zangezur corridor has recently been accelerated to the utmost.

    This is especially true for the 110.4-kilometre Goradiz-Jabrayil-Zangilan-Aghbend railway segment of the corridor, which has been under construction for about three years by Turkish companies with the support of local contractors and is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2024. Three tunnels and several dozen bridges, as well as the erection of eight railway stations, are planned as part of the construction of this steel railway.

    The construction of the 123.6 km Goradiz-Jabrayil-Zangilan-Aghbend first technical category motorway, which will run almost parallel to the railway line of the same name, is also being ramped up from October 2021. All three road tunnels of the future corridor with a total length of 12 kilometres have already been completed and concreted.

    By the end of this year, it is planned to complete about 90% of the construction works on this motorway, including the commissioning of 12 more bridges, more than two-thirds of asphalting works, etc.

    Azerbaijan is interested in the timely completion of the construction of transport infrastructure of the Zangezur corridor, which will actually unblock the NAR and become the shortest route for expanding trade turnover with Türkiye. Ankara is in full solidarity with Baku's plans to form the Zangezur corridor and is also forcing the construction of its Turkish segment.

    "In the coming months, the Turkish side will start work on opening the Zangezur corridor, and the Azerbaijani side also continue to work on this. We have overcome a certain stage in the implementation of this corridor and I believe that Azerbaijan, Türkiye, and Armenia will implement this project in the near future," Turkish Transport and Infrastructure Minister Abdulkadir Uraloglu told the media during the Multimodal Transport and Logistics Forum organised by the Organisation of Turkic States (OTS) in Istanbul.

    According to the minister, the Zangezur corridor is crucial for the normalisation process in the South Caucasus. The motorway will provide a direct land and railway connection between Türkiye and Azerbaijan, and in general, will be an important achievement for the entire Turkic world. As previously noted in a release from Türkiye's transport department, work on the Turkish part of the corridor is underway in Diluju, Igdir, and Kars and is scheduled to be completed this year.

    "The early commissioning of the Zangezur corridor will further reduce the cost of transport along the Middle Corridor, as well as reduce the route's dependence on third countries. By reaching the ports of Mersin and Iskenderun, this Middle Corridor route will greatly benefit the brotherly Turkic states," Binali Yildirim, the first deputy chairman of Türkiye's Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the country's former prime minister, wrote on Tuesday on X (former Twitter).

    Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov spoke about the huge role of the future Zangezur corridor in increasing cargo traffic between the countries in the region in an interview with Hungarian newspaper Magyar Demokrata during his recent official visit to Hungary.

    "With the launch of the Zangezur corridor, it will be possible to increase cargo traffic along the Middle Corridor by an additional 5-8 million tonnes per year. This is a great benefit not only for Azerbaijan and Armenia but also for other countries in the region," the top diplomat said.

    The minister noted that the opening of communications in the region is extremely important not only in terms of trade and logistics but will also contribute to peace processes in the region, making them irreversible, as the countries will be strongly connected to each other. At the same time, the current geopolitical situation, according to Jeyhun Bayramov, dictates the need to create new alternative transport routes linking East and West.

    Underlining that the opening of this corridor will ensure unimpeded communication between mainland Azerbaijan and NAR, Jeyhun Bayramov reminded that this prospect is part of the Trilateral Statement of the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia, and Armenia of November 10, 2020. Based on the trilateral statements of 2020 and 2021, a working group was established at the level of Deputy Prime Ministers of Azerbaijan, Russia, and Armenia, and the work in this direction has been going on for almost three years.

    At the same time, the minister noted that Armenia has taken a very unconstructive position on the issue of opening the Zangezur corridor: "Sometimes it seems that we are close to the completion of the work, but suddenly at the last moment Armenia suddenly puts forward something new and brings the process to a deadlock again".

    This is not only unconstructive on the Armenian side, but it also harms Armenia itself, depriving it of economic benefits, and such an approach of Yerevan may lead to the fact that the country will miss another profitable opportunity to improve its own economy, as "the road may simply bypass Armenia". Azerbaijan, on the other hand, will continue to work in this direction, having a plan "B".

    It is appropriate to recall here that in March 2022 Baku and Tehran reached an agreement on the alternative route: within the framework of the agreement, a project of construction of a 55 km long motor road and a parallel railway line Imishli (Azerbaijan) - Parsabad (Iran) is proposed, with the construction of four border bridges over the Araz River, and the connection of rails and motor road already in Nakhchivan.

    Further, 160 km of steel highways will be reconstructed on the territory of NAR, the border railway junction in Julfa will be modernised for access to Iran, and another combined transshipment point will be built in Ordubad for the transshipment of cars and railway trains. In the future, a project will be implemented to connect the NAR transport communications with Türkiye through a railway line from Kars.


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