Azerbaijani Checkpoint at the Berdzor Corridor: What’s next?

On April 23, 2023, Azerbaijan established a checkpoint on the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor. This step was a logical culmination of Azerbaijani policy, which started in November 2020, when Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia signed a trilateral declaration to end the second Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) war. Azerbaijan’s strategy was clear-cut; there was no Artsakh and no conflict. The 2020 war ended Artsakh as a territorial administrative unit and made the Artsakh conflict history. The deployment of Russian peacekeepers was a temporary measure. Armenians living in Artsakh would receive no special status, and Azerbaijan would never agree to any international presence in Artsakh. Armenians in Artsakh have two options: to take Azerbaijani passports or leave their homeland.

To reach its goals toward Artsakh, Azerbaijan imposed control over the corridor connecting Artsakh with Armenia. Azerbaijan consistently took steps to reach that target. The first action was the construction of the new highway from Lisagor, a village in the Shushi region, to Kornidzor. Azerbaijan finished the construction of that road by the end of July 2022 and forced Armenia and the self-proclaimed Artsakh Republic to accept this new route and evacuate Armenians from the city of Berdzor (Lachin) and surrounding villages by September 2022. Azerbaijan de facto changed the status and functioning of the Berdzor Corridor by taking control over Berdzor and forcing Armenians to use the new highway. According to the November 10, 2020 statement, the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor should be five kilometers wide; Azerbaijani troops were much closer to the new highway.

The next step in Azerbaijan’s strategy was disseminating information that Armenia used the Berdzor Corridor to transport weapons and mines to Artsakh. It was the first step in preparing the ground for closing the road. Then Azerbaijan started to demand the right to monitor the mines in Artsakh. The key for Azerbaijan was the possibility of sending representatives of Azerbaijani state institutions to Artsakh to fulfill the same duties these institutions did in Azerbaijan. This step would send a clear message that Artsakh was Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan used the Artsakh authorities’ decision to prevent the entrance of these representatives into Kashen mine as a pretext to send so-called “eco-activists” to block the Berdzor Corridor near Shushi. Azerbaijan would definitely block the road even if Artsakh authorities allowed monitoring of mines. Baku would find another pretext to close the road. Then Azerbaijan officially demanded the resignation of Artsakh state minister Ruben Vardanyan, calling him a “Russian puppet” and promising to start negotiations with Artsakh after Vardanyan’s removal. However, the first two meetings between Armenians and Azerbaijanis after Vardanyan’s dismissal proved that the only topic Azerbaijan was ready to speak about was the reintegration of the Armenians of Artsakh into Azerbaijan. After organizing an ambush against Artsakh policemen on March 5 and killing three of them, Azerbaijan took control of the alternative mountain passes, which allowed it to reach Lisagor from Stepanakert circumventing “eco-activists.” Establishing the checkpoint at the beginning of the new road of the Berdzor Corridor was the culmination of an Azerbaijani well-designed and consistent strategy to effectively cut Armenia off from Artsakh and force Armenians either to leave or to accept Azerbaijani jurisdiction. Simultaneously, Azerbaijan clearly stated that it would never accept any international presence in Artsakh after the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers either in November 2025 or later.

Meanwhile, as Azerbaijan realized its clearly defined strategy to strangle Artsakh, Armenia’s actions were much less consistent and coherent. In July 2022, Armenia stated that Azerbaijan’s demands to evacuate Berdzor and surrounding villages and accept the new Berdzor Corridor route from the Armenian border to Lisagor were illegal. However, as Azerbaijan launched limited military attacks on August 1 and 3, 2022, Armenia accepted and implemented the Azerbaijani ultimatum. The September 2022 Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia complicated the peace talks; less than a month after the aggression, Armenia signed a Prague statement on October 6, 2022, recognizing Azerbaijani territorial integrity in accordance with the 1991 Alma-Ata declaration. There were attempts in Armenia, mainly by the expert community, to argue that on December 21, 1991, when the Alma-Ata declaration was signed, Artsakh was not part of Azerbaijan because it declared its independence in September 1991 and organized a referendum on independence on December 10, 1991. However, these discussions may have made sense within Armenia, but the international community’s position and understating of the situation was clear. On October 6, 2022, Armenia recognized Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, automatically transforming the Artsakh conflict into the problem of minority protection within Azerbaijan.

On April 23, 2023, the Armenian government criticized Azerbaijani actions for blockading the Berdzor Corridor near Shushi and later establishing the checkpoint. The Armenian government claims these steps are direct preparation for ethnic cleansing and genocide of the Armenian population of Artsakh. However, the Armenian government said it would do nothing to change the situation on the ground, arguing that the Berdzor Corridor belongs to Russia. Russia should force Azerbaijan to remove the checkpoint and end the blockade. Other members of the international community should force Azerbaijan to implement the International Court of Justice’s decision on the blockade adopted on February 22, 2023.

Nevertheless, it is evident that Russia will not use force against Azerbaijan, and the US and other Western countries will not threaten Azerbaijani leadership with personal sanctions on their multi-billion assets. Current calls by Armenia to the international community to pressure Azerbaijan and force Baku to end the blockade and remove the checkpoint will be futile. They will bring no results, allowing Azerbaijan to continue its plan of destroying Artsakh as a political-administrative entity. 

Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan
Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan is the founder and chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies and a senior research fellow at APRI – Armenia. He was the former vice president for research – head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia. In March 2009, he joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies as a research Fellow and was appointed as INSS Deputy Director for research in November 2010. Dr. Poghosyan has prepared and managed the elaboration of more than 100 policy papers which were presented to the political-military leadership of Armenia, including the president, the prime minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Poghosyan has participated in more than 50 international conferences and workshops on regional and international security dynamics. His research focuses on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and the Middle East, US – Russian relations and their implications for the region, as well as the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. He is the author of more than 200 academic papers and articles in different leading Armenian and international journals. In 2013, Dr. Poghosyan was a Distinguished Research Fellow at the US National Defense University College of International Security Affairs. He is a graduate from the US State Department Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy Making. He holds a PhD in history and is a graduate from the 2006 Tavitian Program on International Relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.


  1. Sanctions don’t work well, in most cases. Look at the well-known recent example. Did they change anything?

  2. I don’t believe in conspiracy theories but one could not have placed a more incompetent Armenian government at the greatest time of danger to Armenia since 1915. Is it possible that Armenia’s armed forces were so badly damaged during the 44 day war that Armenia has no capacity left to defend Artsakh and the homeland? For the past two and half years we are hearing a constant drumbeat of Armenian withdrawals not just from Berdzor/Lachin but also along the eastern border with Azerbaijan with a loss of more than 250 soldiers. For that reason alone Pashinyan’s government should have resigned. Yet another puzzling and depressing aspect is that the opposition has not been able to present a credible alternative. Why are people in Armenia not outraged? The current economic progress, important as it is, has not stopped population decline. The busy coffee shops of Yerevan will quickly empty out once a couple of missiles land there. That is where Armenia is heading. Armenia and the Diaspora squandered its opportunities since independence to build strong state institutions and is now paying the price. To expect Russia or US to save Armenia is unreasonable when Armenia is not prepared to defend itself.

  3. That’s doubtful. That same ‘opposition’ kept saying Armenia’s armed forces didn’t help Artsakh during the war, or weren’t involved enough. So which is it, then?

    • I believe (not 100% sure) that the Armenian government has conducted a post mortem analysis of the 44 day war but the report is not made public. I think that a redacted version should be made public to quell rumors and to help unite the nation. It will help answer the question as to the role of the army in supporting ( or not) the Karabakh army. Unfortunately Pashinyan is not a great unifier nor an inspiring leader, when Armenia desperately needs one.If Pashinyan’s approach is to distance Armenia from Karabakh ( a huge mistake) then he may not want to disclose the role of the army in Karabakh.

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