US diplomacy, the Zangazur corridor
    Balancing interests in the Caucasus

    INTERVIEWS  20 June 2024 - 15:14

    Samir Ibrahimov

    The United States is interested in having a direct land link between Türkiye and Azerbaijan through the territory of Armenia, Armenian political scientist Hrant Mikayelyan said, commenting on the recent statements by James O'Brien, US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

    In an interview with Radio Liberty, US Assistant Secretary of State James O'Brien recently answered the question whether Washington supports Baku's idea of Zangazur corridor. According to him, the US side usually talks about this idea as a trade route, very similar to the "Crossroads for Peace" project put forward by Yerevan.

    Mikayelyan regards the US diplomat's words as support for Baku's position on the Zangazur corridor. According to him, unlike Russia, whose position on the Zangazur corridor is rather streamlined (as it is not its agenda), the US has a strategic interest in this issue.

    "The US and Türkiye are interested in increasing their influence in Central Asia, and for this purpose a direct link between Türkiye and the Caspian Sea is needed. They see the Zangazur corridor as a means to achieve this goal. And here, indeed, the US has a direct interest in Azerbaijan and Türkiye establishing a direct land connection through the territory of Armenia," the expert explained.

    To what extent can the idea that the US is more interested than Russia in the restoration of the Zangazur corridor through the territory of Armenia be true?

    US experts shared their views on the issue with Caliber.Az.

    Analyst, former Special Advisor to the US Secretary of State Paul Goble does not think that the US has changed its position on this issue.

    "Washington is in favor of resuming trade and transportation routes, including through Syunik/Zangazur, but I don't see support in Washington for the principle of extraterritoriality or anything more," the diplomat said.

    Political analyst Andrew Korybko believes that the US is nowhere near as interested in the Zangazur corridor as Russia is because it would require peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan, which Washington does not want as it plans to use the tension between the two to divide and rule in the region.

    "The Zangazur corridor is stipulated in the November 10, 2020 trilateral ceasefire statement and, under it, must be guarded by Russia's border service. The Kremlin sees this corridor as a pragmatic way to strengthen trade ties between Armenia and Azerbaijan and advance the cause of regional multipolar integration. However, it is for these very reasons that the US does not support the involvement of the corridor (if one does not look superficially), as such a result contradicts its regional hegemonic interests," the expert noted.

    In the opinion of Irina Tsukerman, a geopolitical analyst, editor-in-chief of The Washington Outsider, the Armenian political analyst interprets James O'Brien's comments too generously.

    "O'Brien did not claim that the US would be involved in any way in the Zangazur corridor issues or that it would openly support it with political moves. The US seems to want to avoid controversy that may arise from the implementation of the issues involved and prefers a non-interference approach, tacitly agreeing to address any implementation-related issues with local stakeholders.

    This means, however, that the US may also not have the desired credit or influence once the corridor is implemented, or, if it waits until the thorny issues are resolved, may then have only a minor role to play. So far, there does not appear to be a clear and announced plan for a US role in the implementation of the corridor; rather, it appears that Washington is open to indirectly benefiting from the outcome," the analyst said.

    She suggests that some of the obstacles to more direct US involvement include the myriad of global crises in an election year, tense relations with Türkiye, antagonistic pressure from the Armenian lobby in the US, a history of miscommunication between some members of the State Department and Baku, and the generally indecisive foreign policy of the Biden administration.

    "If Baku wants clearer support from Washington, it will have to pursue that and work to engage the US as a stakeholder, not just as an outside observer," the editor noted.

    “In general, the US maintains several economic corridors at strategic locations, usually to circumvent the political and economic influence of China and Russia,” she said.

    "One of the biggest challenges facing the US right now is the failure of the India-Middle East-Europe Economic Corridor (IMEC) due to logistical failures caused by the Houthis in the Red Sea. As a result, India has strengthened its relations with Russia and the Eurasian Economic Union, but without US involvement, while China and to a lesser extent Russia have also emerged as growing players in the region.

    Seeing various countries in the region coming up with their own local solutions without US involvement, Washington realizes that it is losing influence, resulting in circumventing sanctions for Russia and China and excluding the US and its allies from the regional dynamics. For this reason, the ideal solution for the US is to put forward its own settlement or support economic corridors that develop independently and are favorable to achieving its goals," Tsukerman concluded.


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