Environmental Issues May Soon Affect Armenian-Azerbaijani Border Dispute – OpEd


Armenian and Azerbaijani officials have been making progress in the delimitation of the state border between them, despite the difficulties left over from Soviet times and the opposition of many in Armenians to any concession of territories Yerevan has controlled to Azerbaijan.

But even if the two countries do agree on a line, that will not be the end of border questions because the activities of one on its side of the border involving the exploitation of natural resources or the flow of transgender rivers will affect the other and lead to new conflicts if they can’t reach agreement on the handling of such things and compensation for losses.

The publication in Baku of a new map showing the way in which Yerevan has concentrated extractive industries along the Azerbaijani border and made use of water that would otherwise have flowed into Azerbaijan suggests that disputes about these issues will soon take center stage in talks between Baku and Yerevan. 

Prepared by Azerbaijani cartographer Mugabil Bayramov and released by the Cartographers of Azerbaijan in Azerbaijani, English and Armenian, the map underscores just how explosive these issues are likely to become (vestikavkaza.ru/news/azerbajdzanskie-kartografy-ulicili-armeniu-vo-vredonosnoj-gornoj-dobyce.html).

According to Vestnik Kavkaza, the map clearly shows that “the authorities of Armenia have intentionally concentrated mining operations along the transborder rivers flowing into Azerbaijani territory and thus damaged the environment of the neighboring country by the contamination of those waters.”

The internet outlet goes on to say that “this is particularly the case on the border of the Eastern Zengezur economic district of Azerbaijan,” already a sensitive area because of Azerbaijani interest in restoring transportation and communication links to Nakhichevan, the non-contiguous portion of the country separated by Armenia’s Syunik Oblast.

Although Azerbaijani experts doubt that serious progress can be made regarding both Armenian compensation for environmental damage to Azerbaijan or a change in Armenian policy regarding the border region until after a peace treaty is concluded, their words suggest that this issue could easily delay the signing of any treaty even if the border itself is delimited.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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