For practically 25 years, site visitors between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh traveled alongside a highway referred to as the Lachin Hall. It was constructed in 1998, shortly after Armenians gained the territory in a warfare with Azerbaijan, and funded by Armenian diaspora members with cash raised at a telethon. Since then, it has represented a important lifeline for the Armenian residents of Karabakh.

On August 30 at 8 p.m., that highway was closed, and site visitors was instantly diverted to a brand new highway roughly parallel to the previous one, however barely to the south. Known as merely “the brand new highway” by residents, this one has been constructed largely by Azerbaijan, which retook the territory as a part of the ceasefire settlement that ended the second warfare between the 2 sides in 2020.

The way forward for Armenians’ presence in Karabakh is precarious: Armenia seems to be heading towards signing a peace settlement that may cede management of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan, which the present ethnic Armenian residents of the territory concern would result in their ethnic cleaning.

For now, although, they’ve a brand new, fashionable highway to journey between Armenia and Karabakh.

In a promotional video celebrating the development by Azerbaijan’s state highway company, the narrator recognized it as “the brand new freeway that doesn’t enter town of Lachin.” That’s the regional capital that the previous highway went by means of, and which Azerbaijan just lately retook with nice fanfare


For the Armenian residents of Karabakh, the highway stays their solely outlet to Armenia and the skin world. Whereas the preliminary evaluations of the highway have been good, there have been issues about its security as effectively: each about how simple it is going to be to drive in winter, and whether or not it would stay free from Azerbaijani management.

When Eurasianet’s correspondent just lately traveled on the brand new highway, a lot was acquainted: Russian peacekeepers continued to function as that they had since 2020, checking vacationers’ paperwork at their relocated checkpoints. Some Azerbaijani development equipment was seen from the highway, apparently erecting new Russian posts. 

Lachin map new road

However the distinction on the highway itself was apparent. The brand new highway is easily paved with gleaming new indicators, a distinction to the previous route that had develop into potholed from lack of upkeep. However additionally it is noticeably steeper in elements, with extra turns, qualities which have involved many drivers.

“There are too many turns and sharp rises. The previous highway was bumpy, however right here the slopes are sharper and longer, and it’s not vast sufficient,” one taxi driver who repeatedly plies the route however didn’t need to be named informed Eurasianet. 

Some have apprehensive that when winter arrives, the highway is probably not satisfactory by extraordinary vehicles. 

“It looks like the winter will probably be troublesome,” one driver informed native information web site “The highway just isn’t acceptable for chilly climate, I’m going to must get a brand new automobile. I drive a taxi, and this highway just isn’t meant for vehicles like that, I’ll want a four-wheel drive,” one other stated.

Eurasianet’s supply was not so certain. “It’s harmful within the winter, but when they plow the roads when it snows, it’s potential to handle it,” he stated.

Whereas the previous highway had a most grade of 17 p.c, there are spots within the new highway of as much as 22 p.c, stated Mikael Nahapetyan, a senior member of the opposition Citizen’s Resolution occasion. 

He described the highway as a harmful “lure for Armenians” and criticized the native authorities for permitting the highway to be constructed this fashion. “This particular ‘various’ highway will deprive Artsakh of a secure and dependable reference to Armenia within the winter season,” he wrote in a Fb submit, utilizing the Armenian title for Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto Ministry of City Growth assured residents that the highway meets worldwide requirements and that it’s going to preserve the highway with a purpose to assure protected transit even in winter. It famous that at a few of the sharpest turns, a 3rd lane has been added for security. 

One other concern is that one Azerbaijani army submit has reportedly not been moved from the route of the brand new highway. Though the ceasefire assertion requires the Russian peacekeepers to manage a five-kilometer buffer across the highway, a submit close to the village of Kirov (which Armenians name Hin Shen) lies solely about 800 meters from the brand new highway. There have been instances of rocks apparently being dropped from above on the vehicles touring alongside the highway, which locals blame on the Azerbaijani troopers on the submit, the group chief of Hin Shen, Samvel Sargsyan, informed information web site

However Sargsyan additionally stated that the highway might create new financial alternatives for Hin Shen and different communities alongside the brand new route. 

The brand new route just isn’t totally full. Whereas the ceasefire settlement stipulated {that a} plan for a brand new highway ought to have been formulated inside three years, Azerbaijan had completed most of its part in a 12 months and a half and commenced to stress Armenia to hurry up its part. An early August Azerbaijani offensive appeared motivated at the least partly to power a faster tempo. 

That month Armenia started development of a 10-kilometer part on its territory, which can join the brand new highway from the Karabakh border to the present highway on the village of Tegh. So as to velocity up the adoption of the brand new highway, Karabakh Armenians rapidly constructed a five-kilometer short-term bypass highway to make use of till the brand new highway in Armenia is full.

“Whereas Azerbaijan has taken constant and fast steps to assemble a brand new highway that can contribute to the protected and peaceable coexistence of peoples, the Armenian aspect is prolonging the development of the part passing by means of its territory with none purpose,” one member of Azerbaijan’s parliament, Mazahir Efendiyev, informed the state information company Azertac. 

Armenian officers argued that, in keeping with the ceasefire settlement, that they had three years to work out a plan for the development with Azerbaijan. Following Azerbaijan’s August offensive alongside the Lachin Hall, the Secretary of Armenia’s Safety Council, Armen Grigoryan stated that Azerbaijan’s demand to cease utilizing the previous highway was not authentic since “Armenia has not accepted any plan.” 

Much less clear is the destiny of one other incomplete part nearer to Stepanakert. One of many major rationales of the brand new highway was to bypass town of Shusha, which the present highway simply skirts. 

However the precedence was the part of the brand new highway that went round Lachin. To many Azerbaijanis, their nation’s victory within the area appeared incomplete so long as they didn’t have management of those communities. Shortly after the 2020 ceasefire was signed, Aliyev highlighted the significance of regaining management of Lachin. “If Lachin … didn’t return to Azerbaijan, then there could possibly be no settlement,” he stated.

Nagorno-Karabakh map

Correspondingly, the entry of Azerbaijani troops into Lachin on August 26 was broadly celebrated in Azerbaijan. 

There appears to be much less urgency for a brand new highway bypassing Shusha, although.

“For now there is not any exact plan for it,” one supply within the de facto Karabakh authorities informed Eurasianet on situation of anonymity. “The primary half has been applied however there are not any discussions in regards to the second half that can bypass Shushi [the Armenian name for the city]. It is unsure in the intervening time.”

The inauguration of the highway comes as Armenians and Azerbaijanis are negotiating over one other strategic highway, connecting Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhchivan to the remainder of the nation by means of Armenian territory. Azerbaijan has referred to as the long run highway the “Zangezur Hall,” and has argued that its authorized preparations ought to be equivalent to these on the Lachin Hall. 

The brand new highway to Karabakh was “only a highway, not a hall” and that it is going to be half of the present negotiations over the opposite highway, argued Azerbaijani army analyst Adalet Valiyev. “Its [the new Karabakh road’s] future standing will probably be extra associated to the standing given to Zangezur Hall,” he informed the information company APA. 

For his or her half, Armenians have rejected the comparability.

“The wording in regards to the so-called hall is unacceptable for us, and it is a pink line for us, as a result of in our area, in keeping with the trilateral assertion, we now have one hall, and that is the Lachin Hall,” Pashinyan stated in an interview with Al Jazeera on June 14.

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