According to a previously reached agreement between Azerbaijani authorities and the de facto authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh, the route that the Lachin Corridor takes linking Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh has changed.
This was reported by Armenian outlets after the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry announced early on Thursday (30 March) that their forces had moved forward to block the section of the Goris-Stepanakert highway between the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and the town of Zabukh, which is known as Aghavno in Armenian.
Speaking at a Cabinet Meeting on Thursday, the Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan confirmed the change and outlined its rationale.
Complicated border crossings now bypassed with new road
According to the agreement reached in August 2022, because the actual Lachin Corridor road stretching from Tegh in the Republic of Armenia, past Kornidzor, crossing into Azerbaijan at the Kornidzor bridge over the Hakari river, and continuing up to Hin Shen, which is known in Azerbaijani as Kichik Galadarasi, was not complete, an alternative but temporary route was established, and was due to function until 1 April.
The problem with this temporary road, however, is that, driving in the direction of Stepanakert from Armenia, it crosses into Azerbaijan, before crossing back into Armenia, before finally crossing into Azerbaijan at the Kornidzor bridge. Now that this new road is ready for use and with the closure of the previous road, a situation whereby people travelling between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh cross between Armenia and Azerbaijan several times in the border region, is avoided.
Speaking to Cabinet, PM Pashinyan said, "Yesterday we notified the Azerbaijani side that in accordance with the agreement, after the Kornidzor bridge [entering Armenia] the road will continue only through the territory of Armenia, and that the border guards of Armenia will assume the protection of the state border of Armenia in that section. The border guards will be deployed on the state border of Armenia, in the same positions where the military units were stationed till this day."
Armenian protests over Azerbaijani presentation of route change
The way in which Azerbaijan announced the closure of the temporary road was met with dissatisfaction from Yerevan, however.
In the statement released on Thursday morning, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said, "in regard with the commissioning of the new Lachin road, several high grounds between Jaghazur and Zabukh villages of Lachin region, main and auxiliary roads, as well as large areas along the border were taken under the control of the Azerbaijan Army Units."
Pashinyan accused Azerbaijani media of "trying to misrepresent this as another blockbuster", in an apparent reference to the events of 25 March, about which you can read more here.
"This approach is not constructive, to say the least," Pashinyan said.
The Armenian Prime Minister also reiterated that there’s been no change in Armenian positions, and that the only change is that the protection of that section will be implemented by Armenian border guards instead of the military.
"We’ve made a proposal to Azerbaijan so that the same happens from their side too," Pashinyan added.