Our Analytics 8 september — 13:58

Pashinyan has Karabakh, but no roads (Topical comment)

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BY ELNUR MAMMADOV

It is difficult to say how in Armenia itself they react to the populist statements of their Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, but Azerbaijanis are pretty fed up with these. Well, tell me, how can one take seriously his latest statements that 'Karabakh is Armenia, and that's that!' The 'revolutionary' prime minister allowed himself something that his no less militant predecessors, the first persons of this country, had never allowed themselves. But, in principle, he, like his predecessors, who came from Nagorno-Karabakh, decided to indulge in wishful thinking. In the hope of somehow raising the falling revolutionary image.

One can't feed the people with Karabakh

Yes, at first glance, it was a loud statement. But let's think for a moment whether the head of state, which doesn't even have a full-fledged road connecting the country with the outside world, has the moral right to say that. For many years now, the leaders of Armenia, which Azerbaijan has put into the transport blockade without much effort, have been dreaming of new projects for the construction of roads and railways within the framework of the North-South or South-West transport corridors that are fantastic even for the Armenians. And their dreams came down to the fact that Iran and Russia should finance these billions worth projects (they themselves have no money), and Georgia should provide an opportunity to freely use their territory.

Illusiveness of the projects was obvious from the very beginning, but no science fiction prevented Armenian politicians from procrastinating this topic until it became boring to them. But even so, they blamed not all their obvious mistakes for their sins, the main of which was the occupation of Karabakh, but Moscow and Tehran for not wanting to invest in the unrealistic undertakings of their spoiled younger brother.

But this was to be expected, investors are in no hurry to invest in a project that is obviously problematic in terms of implementation due to a heap of economic and political problems. Even if we leave aside economic problems, the issue of restoring railway communication between Russia and Georgia through the territory of Abkhazia will not be resolved until the situation in the region that has developed after the August 2008 war in Georgia changes. And its decision is not expected in the foreseeable future. After all, Moscow will not change its big policy to please Yerevan's petty whims.

This is Armenia's railway

In addition, the country's destroyed railway infrastructure requires huge financial injections, which no investor, who is familiar with the real prospects, or rather, the futility of this road, is prepared for. True, Yerevan placed the last hope on agreements with a private Iranian company, Rasia FZE, which was supposed to attract an investor for the construction of the road, but it also died out. The failed project without a final feasibility study worth $3.2 billion never attracted investors. Yerevan did put forward its project almost as a counterbalance to the North-South corridor through Azerbaijan, which is nearing completion today.

Seeing the futility of the venture with the railway, in Yerevan they took up the implementation of the North-South Motorway project and the creation of an alternative highway. What came of it, recent events have shown. In the middle of the last month, Georgia decided by the end of September to restrict the movement of vehicles along the international highway Ponichala-Marneuli-Guguti in the direction of the Guguti customs checkpoint. The goal is large-scale repair work. Meanwhile, this is the only road along which goods and passengers can be transported from Armenia to Russia in transit through Georgia.

They sounded the alarm in Armenia, realising that the priority transportation will be provided, of course, for Georgian transport. Of course, Armenia took this decision as a desire to create new difficulties for Yerevan. This is for the only open road for it leading to Europe, to key trading and regional partners. And most importantly, to Russia, the main strategic ally, which, like Yerevan, is part of the Eurasian Economic Union. The Armenian-Russian trade transit passes through Georgia, as Armenia does not have a common border with the Russian Federation and other EAEU countries.

The last corridor of life in Armenia

Armenia has turned into some kind of an isolated island in the space of not only the EAEU, but of the entire CIS. But this is not some island of bad luck in the ocean, but a state located in the South Caucasus that sacrificed economic prosperity to its own aggressive policy. It just needs to sign a peace treaty with Baku, and that would immediately open the entire developed transport infrastructure of neighbouring Azerbaijan and Turkey. But Nikol Pashinyan decided to outdo his predecessors, having decided, apparently, to simultaneously intimidate Baku. But this already looks more like the famous Krylov fable about an elephant and a pug.

What is he hoping for, the ruler of a country without roads, where is he trying to lead his people? Judging by his statements, Yerevan does not cease to make efforts to expand cooperation in the region, reduce the influence of the blockade, and it is helped in this task by ... Iran. Indeed, given the unpromising situation with Baku and Ankara, as well as the current difficult relations between Moscow and Tbilisi, the Iranian route has become a 'life road' for Armenia. But here, Armenia was not lucky too.

Iran has come under sanctions, and using this route is becoming increasingly difficult. The only convenient road in these conditions is the Georgian route, where problems often arise. Therefore, Armenia is in a vulnerable position. And some Armenian experts are already recommending rethinking the construction of the Armenia-Iran railway. And again one have to remind them: Armenia does not have the billions necessary for this, and Iran itself has now lost all hope of rebuilding its economy in the near future. And no matter how Yerevan tries to dodge against the backdrop of militant statements, it has no other choice but to resort to the help of the Azerbaijani transport infrastructure. As it used to be in its good times...

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