Azerbaijan Airlines has announced that its Baku-Nakhchivan flights will use Armenian airspace. The announcement has elicited alarm from Armenian opposition, as well as speculation that it may be the result of recent tensions between Iran and Azerbaijan.
‘Azerbaijan Airlines has started using airspace over the Armenian territory while carrying out an internal flight on the Baku-Nakhchivan-Baku route since October 6’, the airline announced in a Facebook post. ‘This step demonstrates that Azerbaijan is definitely ready to open transport communications in the region and responds to the interests of all bordering states’.
The flight coincides with reports that Iran had closed its airspace for Azerbaijani military flights as a result of recent diplomatic and military tensions between the two countries.
[Read more: Military exercises and a war of words between Iran and Azerbaijan]
According to the Armenian Civil Aviation Committee (ACAC), there was no ban on Azerbaijani civilian flights over Armenian territory, except during the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in autumn 2020.
The last time an Azerbaijani civilian flight used Armenian airspace was in 2014.
Anna Grigoryan, an MP from the opposition I Have Honour coalition, condemned the flight and usage of Armenian airspace by Azerbaijan as the ‘first corridor’ that Armenia’s ruling authorities had ‘given’ to Azerbaijan.
Since the end of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War in November 2020, Baku has been demanding that Armenia open a ‘corridor’ through the southern province of Syunik to facilitate a direct land connection between Nakhchivan and Azerbaijan’s western regions.
Journalist and political analyst Tatul Hakobyan, meanwhile, speculated that Azerbaijan’s resumption of flights over Armenia was intended to send a ‘signal’ to Iran and to possibly ‘drive a little madness’ in Armenia-Iran relations.
Armenia is a signatory of the 1944 Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, which forbids ‘countries from taking discriminatory measures against foreign airlines’.
According to the ACAC, planes registered in Armenia remain banned from Turkish airspace. The initial ban took effect on 9 September 2020, less than three weeks before the start of the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.