In late April 2021, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev laid the foundation for building an international airport in Zangilan District, as part of the national restoration process for Karabakh and the surrounding de-occupied regions (Abc.az, April 27). Speaking at the ceremony, Aliyev mentioned that the geographical location of the district and the transit capacity potential of the new airport will create opportunities for turning Zangilan into an international transport and logistics center. With a three-kilometer-long runway, the new airport will be able to accept all types of aircraft, including heavy-duty planes. The Zangilan airport will be one of three airports under development in and around Karabakh. The other two will be situated in the neighboring Fizuli and Lachin regions.
The restoration and reconstruction work in Karabakh started immediately after the signing of the trilateral declaration between the presidents of the Russian Federation and Azerbaijan and the prime minister of Armenia on November 9, 2020 (President.az. November 10, 2020). This declaration ended the 44-day Second Karabakh War and led to the restoration of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. For Baku, the main goal in the first stage of the restoration process is the establishment of all necessary transport routes and infrastructure that can subsequently accelerate the implementation of other projects and economic development in the Karabakh region.
Despite the large-scale destruction suffered by the previously occupied territories while under Armenian control, Azerbaijan has been able to quickly start and implement several important projects in its liberated areas. Notably, construction work on the first airport in Karabakh, situated in Fizuli District, has already begun, with the foundation having been laid on January 14 (Trend, April 22). The airport’s planned 2.8-kilometer runway is expected to be put into operation before the end of 2021. Fizuli airport will facilitate the travel of foreign visitors to the regained territories, especially to Shusha, the cultural center of Azerbaijan (see EDM, November 12, 2020). Moreover, the connection of Fizuli airport to the Fizuli–Shusha highway will facilitate tourist travel to Karabakh (Azernews.az, May 3, 2021). Further plans include building a third airport in Lachin District, although a suitable location is yet to be settled on (Axar.az, April 20). The new international airports around Karabakh will cover the entire liberated area well as the eastern Zangazur zone.
Beyond airports, Azerbaijan has also commenced work on restoring and expanding the network of local highways and railroads. The planned roads will enable access to Karabakh from the northern, eastern and southern directions.
Northeast of the liberated territories, Azerbaijan is repairing a 28-kilometer highway that connects the city of Tartar with the villages of Sugovushan and Talish (Azernews.az, December 30, 2020). And a planned extension of this project will restore 22 kilometers of highway from Talish to Naftalan.
South of Karabakh, Azerbaijan is building the Ahmadbeyli–Fuzuli–Shusha highway, which will stretch to the center of Karabakh and end in Shusha (Azernews.az, January 7, 2021). The total length of this road will be 101 kilometers, and it is expected to be completed by late 2021 or 2022. The highway’s extension to Fizuli airport increases its strategic importance. Other overland transportation corridors in the southern direction include the Horadiz–Zangilan–Qubadli–Lachin road and the Horadiz–Fuzuli–Shusa railway (Report.az, December 18, 2020). Currently, these projects are in the planning stages; but implementation is expected to start in 2021.
The other crucial transit project for the region is the Horadiz–Agband railway. The foundation for this route was laid in February of 2021, and construction continues (Abc.az, February 15, 2021)….
Read More: Karabakh: An Emerging Regional Transport Hub