Erdogan: Iran ‘views positively’ a land corridor linking Turkey to Azerbaijan

Turkish President Erdogan said Iran, which has opposed a land corridor linking Turkey to Azerbaijan, is now changing its tune.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Tuesday that Iran is now warming up to a joint Turkish-Azeri plans to set up a transport corridor connecting Turkey to Azerbaijan via Armenia.

Speaking on his way back from the Azerbaijani exclave of Nakhchivan, Erdogan reiterated his country’s resolve to set up the corridor through which Ankara is seeking to boost its trade ties with Azerbaijan and Central Asia. “Establishment of this corridor is very important for Turkey and Azerbaijan. This is a strategic issue and must be completed,” he said.

Iran has in the past opposed the plan on the grounds that it would cut off the transport routes connecting its territories to Armenia. Without elaborating on the nature of the positive signals now coming out of the country, Erdogan said, “It is pleasing to see positive signals from Iran on this issue.”

The so-called Zangezur corridor aims to connect the Azeri exclave of Nakhchivan, bordering Turkey, to mainland Azerbaijan through the southern Armenian province of Syunik. Armenia opposes the plans on the grounds that it would violate its sovereignty.

“If Armenia does not pave the way for [the corridor], where will it pass through? It will pass through Iran,” Erdogan said Tuesday. “Iran currently considers this positively. So, it would be possible to pass from Iran to Azerbaijan.”

Speaking after a Cabinet meeting later Tuesday, Erdogan reiterated the Iranian alternatives, saying that plans to link Turkey to Azerbaijan through railway and road projects would also involve Iran. “Through joint projects that will include our neighbor Iran, we want to turn our region into a basin of peace and prosperity. We will advance this process without excluding anyone,” he said.

“We will establish the Zangezur corridor as soon as possible. We will have uninterrupted road and railway connection with our friend and brother Azerbaijan through Nakhchivan,” Erdogan added.

Erdogan’s visit to Nakhchivan came only days after a daylong Azerbaijani offensive in the Nagorno-Karabakh region last week, which resulted in Armenian forces in the region surrendering their weapons. Nagorno-Karabakh has been contested between Azerbaijan and Armenia since the early 1990s and came under the control of Azeri forces in a 2020 war. While Turkey and Israel backed Azeri forces in the 44-day war, Iran backed Armenia.

Azerbaijan’s recapturing of the Nagorno-Karabakh areas — which were largely considered under Armenian occupation by several UN Security Council resolutions — and changes in the balance of power in the Southern Caucasus have led to an increase in the tensions between Baku and Tehran, as the latter is wary of its own restive Azeri population in the north of Iran.

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