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Vahe Sarukhanyan

Azerbaijani, Turkish Planes Use Armenian Airspace to Connect Baku and Ganja with Nakhijevan

The November 2020 trilateral agreement that halted the Artsakh war called for the unblocking of transportation arteries in the South Caucasus.

When it comes to air links between Armenia and Azerbaijan, these routes have been open since 2021. Here, Armenia did the unblocking and Azerbaijan and Turkey have been the beneficiaries.

It is true, on paper at least, that Armenia and Azerbaijan have not employed flight restrictions on each other, except during the war. In other words, both Armenia’s skies were open for Azerbaijan and vice-versa. The reality is different.

First, Armenian carriers generally do not need to fly over Azerbaijan, because they do not fly to Central Asia, Siberia or the Far East.

Armenian government aircraft, for example, when leaving to or returning from Central Asian cities, never enter the skies of Azerbaijan, which is understandable from a security point of view. Azerbaijani and Turkish government planes do not enter Armenian airspace either, but the national carriers of those countries, AZAL and Turkish Airlines make transit flights via Armenian airspace, connecting Baku, Nakhichevan, Ganja, Istanbul to each other. (Ganja is Azerbaijan’s third largest city some 380 kilometers east of Baku.)

From the summer of 2020 until March of this year, Turkey did not allow aircraft with Armenian registration to enter its skies. Armenian government aircraft again flew via Turkish airspace starting this spring, but Armenian commercial carriers continue to face obstacles.

For example, Fly One Armenia planes, which aren’t registered in Armenia but in Moldova, make the Yerevan-Istanbul-Yerevan flight unhindered but regularly face problems raised by Turkish aviation authorities when making transit flights through the sky of Turkey. 

In May-June of this year, Turkey did not allow Fly One Armenia to fly from Yerevan to France, Paris and Lyon via its airspace. The airline’s recently launched Yerevan-Beirut-Yerevan flight faced the same problem. Turkish aviation authorities denied the company the right to conduct transit flights through its airspace. The Armenian airline say flights to Beirut are suspended until July 21.

During the summer season, the Armenian airline Fly Arna, whose aircraft are registered in Armenia, flies to Egypt’s Sharm El Sheikh and Hurghada tourist towns, by making a long detour bypassing Turkey and Iraq. (See below)

If we look at the flights to Egypt of another Armenian carrier, Aircompany Armenia, we see that they either bypassed Turkish airspace or transited through it.

As for the transit flights of Turkish and Azerbaijani air carriers via Armenian airspace, Azerbaijani AZAL planes have flown Baku-Nakhijevan-Baku flights through Armenian air unhindered since October 2021.

In addition, since November 2014, Azerbaijani aircraft state avoided flying over the skies of Armenia, because on November 12 of that year, in an apparent act of aggression, they shot down an unarmed Armenian Mi-24 military helicopter on a training flight in the skies over Artsakh. For the following seven years, due to fears of Armenian retaliation, Azerbaijani aircraft flew from Baku to Nakhijevan only via the territory of Iran. 

Following the 2020 Artsakh war, with the agreement of the Armenian government, AZAL aircraft fly from Baku to Nakhijevan not only through Iran, but also via Armenia (see photo).

Azerbaijan has confirmed that flying this route via Armenian airspace is better in terms of time and cost.

We have noted that these flights sometimes pass through the airspace of Artsakh, in particular, over the region of Martakert.

Roundtrip Baku-Nakhijevan flights via Armenia’s airspace are carried out four times a day.

But this is not all. The Turkish national carrier Turkish Airlines regularly operates Istanbul-Ganja-Nakhijevan-Istanbul (flight number: TK 326) and Istanbul-Nakhijevan-Ganja-Istanbul (TK 328) flights, during which Nakhijevan-Ganja and Ganja-Nakhijevan, as well as the Ganja-Istanbul routes use the airspace of Armenia. (See below)

At one time, Istanbul-Nakhijevan flights also used Armenian airspace, but now Turkish Airlines planes fly the same route via the narrow Turkish-Nakhijevan border.

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