Turkey to start building key Zangezur connection in late 2024

Image: ANP. Halil Sagirkaya

Turkey will start building a railway from Kars to Nakhchivan, Azerbaijan’s exclave region, at the end of 2024. In combination with a possibly completed Zangezur Corridor, Turkey and Azerbaijan will have a direct rail connection, creating an alternative route for Asia – Europe traffic.

According to the Turkish minister of transport, the Kars – Nakhchivan railway is crucial for the Zangezur Corridor. Kars is an important rail node as the start of the Baku – Tbilisi – Kars railway that connects Azerbaijan and Turkey though Georgia. The Zangezur Corridor connects Azerbaijan to its exclave Nakhchivan, which is located west of Azerbijan. They are separated by Armenia.

The new Turkish railway would extend the corridor into Turkey, boosting regional connectivity. Construction on the line is supposed to start in late 2024 and will take an estimated five years to complete.

The entirety of the Zangezur Corridor is also expected to be ready in 2029, according to an Azerbaijani source. If completed, it would add a whole new transport corridor in the Caucasus connecting east and west.

Will the Zangezur Corridor really be completed?

The Zangezur Corridor is championed by Turkey and Azerbaijan as a highly lucrative regional project. Its economic benefits would extend beyond the two countries mainly to the rest of the Caucasus and Central Asia, but also Russian and Iran, according to an expert cited by Azerbaijani media.

As lucrative as the Zangezur Corridor might be, its completion is not at all certain. While Azerbaijan is already working on a railway in the direction of Nakhchivan, it is blocked by its neighbour Armenia. The countries fought two wars in recent years over Nagorno-Karabakh and remain hostile to one another.

Armenia is not in favour of a rail corridor benefitting Azerbaijan and Turkey running through its territory. Either it agrees to a corridor through its territory, which is unlikely, or an alternative route through Iran will have to be established. Negotiations on this issue are currently ongoing, but the outcome remains uncertain. Turkey’s work on the Kars – Nakhchivan railway may be an indication that it is confident that the corridor will see the light, one way or another.

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Author: Dennis van der Laan

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