Azerbaijan International

Spring 1994 (2.1)
Page 36

The Nakhchivan Connection

Ramiz Abutalibov
Azerbaijan's Ambassador-at-Large

The thick line represents the northern and southern railway routes between Baku and Yerevan. Armenia's Blockade against Nakhchivan was on southern route; Azerbaijan's Blockade against Armenia was on the northern route.

There are two blockades that exist between Armenia and Azerbaijan though most people have only heard of Azerbaijan's blockade against Armenia. However, Armenia's Blockade against Nakhchivan (the Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan, land which is geographically separated from Azerbaijan proper by Armenia). This blockade was earlier and is equally as devastating to civilians.

Both blockades refer to the cessation of transport via the railway system between the two countries. There are two routes which connect Baku to Yerevan. A northern route from Gazakh and a southern route via Nakhchivan.

Armenia's Blockade began in 1989 when they attacked Baku trains which traverse 46 kilometers of Armenia before entering Nakhichevan. On numerous occasions, they threatened, robbed, and even killed civilian passengers. Afterwards, they destroyed ten kilometers of Azerbaijan's railway. As this southern route continues to Yerevan, Armenians, in reality, participated in destroying access to some of its outside resources-exactly what they so vehemently accuse Azerbaijan of doing.

When Armenians refer to Azerbaijan's Blockade, they mean the northern route which Azerbaijan did block after realizing transported goods were being used by Armenians in the war against them.

The US Freedom Support Act insists that Azerbaijan lift the blockade against Armenia and Karabakh before it will send aid directly to Azerbaijan. However, the law makes no mention of Armenia's Blockade against Nakhchivan, and the US has not blocked millions of dollars in aid to Armenia ($188 million in the past two years-see page 47).

Azerbaijan has promised international organizations (UN and CSCE) that it will lift the embargo against Armenia once Armenians withdraw their troops and accept Azerbaijan's territorial integrity and return to the internationally recognized border between them.

Even if Azerbaijan did agree to lift the blockade tomorrow, however, the southern route is still not operational. Azerbaijanis believe Armenia should be held responsible for restoring the section that they themselves destroyed inside the boundaries of their own country.

However, Yerevan can be accessed from the northern route without repairing the southern route. Nakhchivan stands to lose the most if the railroad is not rebuilt as it was the conduit for 85% of goods sent to them from Azerbaijan. Limited supplies are now being sent to Nakhchivan by truck through Iran on very rough roads. If Nakhchivan were limited to using only the northern railway, they would have to transport goods 500 km, not the original 46 km from the Azerbaijan border, an arrangement that is not only more time consuming but much more expensive.

From Azerbaijan International (2.1) Spring 1994.
© Azerbaijan International 1994. All rights reserved.

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