Connect with us

Eastern Europe

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and an estimate of war damages for Azerbaijan

Published

on

[yt_dropcap type=”square” font=”” size=”14″ color=”#000″ background=”#fff” ] T [/yt_dropcap]he conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh became as one of the most tragic and complicated conflicts contributing to instability in the entire region. The conflict has claimed thousands of lives and over one million people became refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Twenty percent of Azerbaijani territory has been occupied and material damages worth billions of dollars as the whole infrastructure devastated or destroyed in the occupied regions. A ceasefire agreement has been signed on May 1994 to halt the bloody conflict. However, four-day April 2016 war showed once again that peace agreement between the warring parties is extremely fragile.

If we look at the war damage in Azerbaijan, it is worth noting that the socio-economic damage caused by Armenian aggression negatively affected all spheres of the Azerbaijani economy. According to the calculations, 890 cities, villages and settlements, 102 thousand dwelling houses, 7000 public buildings, 695 healthcare facilities, 693 secondary schools, 927 libraries, 310 industrial and building enterprises, 464 historical monuments and museums, 6 state theaters and concert studios have been devastated or destroyed in the occupied territories.

TABLE 1: Infrastructural and telecommunication damages

1.

Railroad

240,4 km

2.

Motor road

800 km

3.

Bridges

160

4.

Water Reservoirs

3 (main Sarsang)

5.

Water-line

2,300 km

6.

Air

4 airports ( main Khojali airport)

7.

Gas distribution stations

35

8.

Gas-pipe

Baku-Khankendi (Stepanakert)-Nakhichevan

9.

Transformer stations

2,500

10.

Electric lines

15,000 km

11.

Telecommunications

for more than 35 000 subscribers

Source: http://karabakh.org and own construction

It is worth also noting that the occupied territories of Nagorno-Karabakh represented a large agricultural region within Azerbaijan, as about 70% of summer pastures of the country remain in the occupied areas. In general, grain-growing, fodder production, vine-growing, tobacco-growing, potato-growing, cotton-growing, dairy farming and meat farming, particularly sheep-breeding dominated in the agriculture. Agricultural sector played always important role in national economy, thus after aggression during years 1990-1994 GDP of the country decreased about 63% in total due to agriculture output falling about 43%. Percentage of population dependent on agriculture in the country used to be always high (36.8% –2014), therefore, loss of fertile agricultural lands resulted in high unemployment. The occupied regions had quite strong progress in agricultural production and productivity growth. However, all those production facilities destroyed and remained in the occupied territories. Preliminary calculations show that the total damage to Azerbaijan caused by Armenian aggression estimated around $60 billion.

It should be also highlighted that the illegal economic and other activities carried out by Armenia and the third states in the occupied territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan are contrary to the core principles of the OSCE and the UN. As the Armenia is the occupant of Azerbaijan’s territories and its armed forces are illegally situated in the occupied territories, it grossly violates the core principles of international law. Armenia encourages and facilitates resettlement of Syrian Armenians in the occupied territories. Government agencies of Armenia, including its Ministry of Diaspora, as well as other organizations of Armenia, in particular the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), which designed special Yerevan-headquartered “Help your Brother” program for this purpose. Armenians from Syria (many from Qamishli and Aleppo in Syria) are settled mainly but not exclusively in the occupied Zangilan, Gubadly and Lachyn districts (“Illegal Economic and other activities in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan”: Report by the MFA of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2016, pdf, pp. 11).

Armenian diaspora organizations, including the Lebanon-based Artsakh Roots Investment (“ARI”) company, play a major role in enabling and facilitating the occupation. A large amount of funding for settlements and other activities is provided by foreign private investors, mostly of Armenian origin, and from charity non-profit organizations such as the US-based Tufenkian Foundation, Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), Cherchian Family Foundation are channeling large amounts into the illegal activities and settlements throughout the occupied territories. Hayatsan All-Armenian Fund designed and implemented a special “Re-population of villages of Artsakh” project. Building new infrastructure and communication facilities as well as illegal activities in the field of ICT and banking sectors are well-known facts. For example, the Armenian banks such as “Artsakhbank”, Converse Bank, Ardshininvestbank, Armbusinessbank, Armeconombank, Araratbank, Unibank and Ameriabank are operating in the occupied territories. Armenia’s mobile operators such as Armentel (a subsidiary of the Russian Vimpelcom under the “Beeline” brand), Viva Cell MTS and Orange Armenia, a subsidiary of Orange Group France, provide roaming services with reduced rates to “Karabakh Telecom CJSC” (ibid, pp. 10- 24).

Armenia is also a transit route to export goods illegally produced in the occupied territories to international markets. The goods produced in the Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied areas are being exported to the European, Russian, Ukrainian, the U.S. markets etc. under a fake label ‘made in Armenia’ or by companies operating in the Nagorno-Karabakh but registered in Armenia. It pursued illegal policy on development and operation gold deposit located in the occupied Kalbajar region of Azerbaijan by Base Metals CJSC, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Armenia’s Vallex Group CJSC, registered in Liechtenstein. Another company Gold Star CJSC reportedly started exploitation of the gold mine in Zangilan district (ibid, pp. 14). All these facts are a clear violation of international law.

The occupation of Azerbaijani territories is significant obstacle to regional cooperation, and its policy leads Armenia to isolation. Consequently, the country will have no opportunity to participate in regional projects. On the contrary, due to a rapid economic growth, Azerbaijan has been realizing important energy and transport projects of regional and global importance. Important projects, such as the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan pipeline (BTC), the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline (BTE), Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway (BTK) which bypassed Armenia, realized due to cooperation between Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. Occupation of Azerbaijani territories caused socio-economic damage not only for Azeri but also for Armenian people too, and it is obvious that the current situation damages the Armenian economy. It is worth underlining that as long as this country continues its aggression against Azerbaijan, it will stay away from all regional projects, and inclusive regional cooperation in the South Caucasus will be impossible.

After last year’s April bloody clash between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the economic damage of war on Azerbaijanis became again increasingly important. As a result of only four-day clash, 6 civilians were killed, 26 people injured, 445 houses, 5 schools, 2 medical centers, 2 kindergartens and other social and administrative buildings were seriously damaged. These figures are only “a drop in the bucket”, therefore, a careful calculation of the whole war damage caused by Armenian aggression since the start of war is extremely important.

Undoubtedly, Azerbaijani government has the list of all devastated and destroyed infrastructures, production facilities and cultural heritage in the occupied zones. Also geography, history, and culture of the occupied territories have a great potential for the tourism industry, but Azerbaijan cannot benefit from this sector. To make exact calculation, it is very important to liberate all occupied territories and attract international organizations to calculate the exact amount of damages.

In addition to the foregoing, as a result of Armenian aggression, the blockade of the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic (Azerbaijani exclave) has been continuing for almost 28 years. The blockade of the region actually prevents realization of the full economic potential of this region. Therefore, the damage to this region should be also calculated, and abolishing the blockade should be the subject of discussions and adopted documents by international organizations. Accordingly, while calculating the final amount of damages and costs, all direct and indirect costs should be calculated, and undoubtedly, the final actual costs will exceed the preliminary estimated costs by several times.

The conclusion must be that although the war caused both human suffering and economic losses for Azerbaijanis and Armenians, unfortunately, additional losses will be in the future due to the ongoing conflict. As many Armenian journalists and human rights activists underline Azerbaijanis and Armenians suffer a lot from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and this conflict should be resolved so that both Armenian and Azeri people could live peacefully there. According to journalist and social activist Susan Jaghinyan –“the Armenian people had their share of grief. Only occupiers (Armenian authorities) benefited from the conflict”. All these facts once again confirm that both Azeri and Armenian people are continuing suffering from the bloody conflict. The fastest peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict will restore regional integration, and the people of the region will be able to benefit from regional economic development.

Continue Reading
Comments

Eastern Europe

Unhappy Iran Battles for Lost Influence in South Caucasus

Published

on

Events that might not matter elsewhere in the world matter quite a lot in the South Caucasus. Given a recent history of conflict, with all the bad feelings that generates, plus outside powers playing geostrategic games, and its growing importance as an energy corridor between Europe and Central Asia, the region is vulnerable. 

This has been worsened by the two-year-long Western absence of engagement. In 2020, Europe and the U.S. were barely involved as the second Nagorno-Karabakh war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan, leaving about 7,000 dead. With tensions now on the rise between Azerbaijan and Iran, Western uninterest is again evident, even though this might have wider ramifications for future re-alignment in the South Caucasus. 

The drumbeat of Iranian activity against Azerbaijan has been consistent in recent months. Iran is getting increasingly edgy about Israel’s presence in the South Caucasus — hardly surprising given Israel’s painfully well-targeted assassination and computer hacking campaigns against nuclear staff and facilities — and especially its growing security and military ties with Azerbaijan, with whom Iran shares a 765km (430 mile) border. Iran has also voiced concern about the presence in the region of Turkish-backed Syrian mercenaries, who were used as Azeri assault troops last year.  

Much of the anger has been played out in military exercises. The Azeri military has been busy since its victory, exercising near the strategic Lachin corridor which connects the separatist region to Armenia, and in the Caspian Sea, where it has jointly exercised with Turkish personnel. Iran, in turn, sent units to the border region this month for drills of an unstated scale. 

This week, the Azeri and Iranian foreign ministers agreed to dial down the rhetoric amid much talk of mutual understanding. Whether that involved promises regarding the Israeli presence or a pledge by Iran to abandon a newly promised road to Armenia was not stated. 

Iran’s behavior is a recognition of the long-term strategic changes caused by the Armenian defeat last year. Iran has been sidelined. Its diplomatic initiatives have failed, and it has been unwelcome in post-conflict discussions. 

It is true that Iran was never a dominant power in the South Caucasus. Unlike Russia or Turkey, the traditional power brokers, it has not had a true ally. Iran was certainly part of the calculus for states in the region, but it was not feared, like Russia or Turkey. And yet, the South Caucasus represents an area of key influence, based on millennia of close political and cultural contacts. 

Seen in this light, it is unsurprising that Iran ratcheted up tensions with Azerbaijan. Firstly, this reasserted the involvement of the Islamic Republic in the geopolitics of the South Caucasus. It was also a thinly-veiled warning to Turkey that its growing ambitions and presence in the region are seen as a threat. In Iran’s view, Turkey’s key role as an enabler of Azeri irridentism is unmistakable. 

Turkish involvement has disrupted the foundations of the South Caucasian status quo established in the 1990s. To expect Turkey to become a major power there is an overstretch, but it nevertheless worries Iran. For example, the recent Caspian Sea exercises between Azerbaijan and Turkey appear to run counter to a 2018 agreement among the sea’s littoral states stipulating no external military involvement. 

The Caspian Sea has always been regarded by Iranians as an exclusive zone shared first with the Russian Empire, later the Soviets, and presently the Russian Federation. Other littoral states play a minor role. This makes Turkish moves in the basin and the recent improvement of ties between Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan an unpleasant development for Iran — fewer barriers to the Trans-Caspian Pipeline threatens the Islamic Republic’s ability to block the project.  

This is where Iranian views align almost squarely with the Kremlin’s. Both fear Turkish progress and new energy routes. The new Iranian leadership might now lean strongly toward Russia. With Russia’s backing, opposition to Turkey would become more serious; Iran’s foreign minister said this month that his country was seeking a “big jump” in relations with Russia. 

The fact is that the region is increasingly fractured and is being pulled in different directions by the greater powers around it. This state of affairs essentially dooms the prospects of pan-regional peace and cooperation initiatives. Take the latest effort by Russia and Turkey to introduce a 3+3 platform with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, as well as Iran. Beyond excluding the West, disagreements will eventually preclude any meaningful progress. There is no unity of purpose between the six states and there are profound disagreements. 

Thus, trouble will at some point recur between Iran and Azerbaijan, and by extension Turkey. Given the current situation, and Iran’s visible discontent, it is likely it will take some kind of initiative lest it loses completely its position to Turkey and Russia. 

Author’s note: first published in cepa

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

Right-wing extremist soldiers pose threat to Lithuania

Published

on

It is no secret that Lithuania has become a victim of German army’s radicalization. Could this country count on its partners further or foreign military criminals threaten locals?

It is well known that Germany is one of the largest provider of troops in NATO. There are about 600 German troops in Lithuania, leading a Nato battlegroup. According to Lithuanian authorities, Lithuania needs their support to train national military and to protect NATO’s Central and Northern European member states on NATO’s eastern flank.

Two sides of the same coin should be mentioned when we look at foreign troops in Lithuania.

Though Russian threat fortunately remains hypothetical, foreign soldiers deployed in the country cause serious trouble. Thus, the German defence minister admitted that reported this year cases of racist and sexual abuse in a German platoon based in Lithuania was unacceptable.

Members of the platoon allegedly filmed an incident of sexual assault against another soldier and sang anti-Semitic songs. Later more allegations emerged of sexual and racial abuse in the platoon, including soldiers singing a song to mark Adolf Hitler’s birthday on 20 April this year.

It turned out that German media report that far-right abuses among the Lithuania-based troops had already surfaced last year. In one case, a soldier allegedly racially abused a non-white fellow soldier. In another case, four German soldiers smoking outside a Lithuanian barracks made animal noises when a black soldier walked past.

Lithuania’s Defence Minister Arvydas Anušauskas said later that the investigation was carried out by Germany and that Lithuania was not privy to its details. The more so, Lithuania is not privy to its details even now. “We are not being informed about the details of the investigation. […] The Lithuanian military is not involved in the investigation, nor can it be,” Anušauskas told reporters, stressing that Germany was in charge of the matter.

Ms Kramp-Karrenbauer, German defence minister, said that these misdeeds would be severely prosecuted and punished. Time has passed, and the details are not still known.

It should be said Germany has for years struggled to modernize its military as it becomes more involved in Nato operations. Nevertheless problems existed and have not been solved yet. According to the annual report on the state of the Bundeswehr made in 2020 by Hans-Peter Bartel, then armed forces commissioner for the German Bundestag, Germany’s army “has too little materiel, too few personnel and too much bureaucracy despite a big budget increase.” Mr Bartels’ report made clear that the Bundeswehr continues to be plagued by deep-seated problems. Recruitment remains a key problem. Mr Bartels said 20,000 army posts remained unfilled, and last year the number of newly recruited soldiers stood at just over 20,000, 3,000 fewer than in 2017. The other problem is radicalization of the armed forces.

Apparently, moral requirements for those wishing to serve in the German army have been reduced. Federal Volunteer Military Service Candidate must be subjected to a thorough medical examination. Desirable to play sports, have a driver’s license and be able to eliminate minor malfunctions in the motor, to speak at least one foreign language, have experience of communicating with representatives of other nationalities, be initiative and independent. After the general the interview follows the establishment of the candidate’s suitability for service in certain types of armed forces, taking into account his wishes. Further candidate passes a test on a computer. He will be asked if he wants study a foreign language and attend courses, then serve in German French, German-Dutch formations or institutions NATO.

So, any strong and healthy person could be admitted, even though he or she could adhere to far-right views or even belong to neo-Nazi groups. Such persons served in Lithuania and, probably, serve now and pose a real threat to Lithuanian military, local population. Neo-Nazism leads to cultivating racial inequalities. The main goal of the neo-Nazis is to cause disorder and chaos in the country, as well as to take over the army and security organs. Lithuanian authorities should fully realize this threat and do not turn a blind eye to the criminal behaviour of foreign military in Lithuania. There is no room to excessive loyalty in this case.

Continue Reading

Eastern Europe

Lithuanian foreign policy: Image is everything

Published

on

It seems as if Lithuanian government takes care of its image in the eyes of EU and NATO partners much more than of its population. Over the past year Lithuania managed to quarrel with such important for its economy states like China and Belarus, condemned Hungary for the ban on the distribution of images of LGBT relationships among minors, Latvia and Estonia for refusing to completely cut energy from Belarus. Judging by the actions of the authorities, Lithuania has few tools to achieve its political goals. So, it failed to find a compromise and to maintain mutually beneficial relations with economic partners and neighbours. The authorities decided to achieve the desired results by demanding from EU and NATO member states various sanctions for those countries that, in their opinion, are misbehaving.

Calling for sanctions and demonstrating its “enduring political will”, Lithuania exposed the welfare of its own population. Thus, district heating prices will surge by around 30 percent on average across Lithuania.

The more so, prices for biofuels, which make up 70 percent of heat production on average, are now about 40 higher than last year, Taparauskas, a member of the National Energy Regulatory Council (VERT) said.

“Such a huge jump in prices at such a tense time could threaten a social crisis and an even greater increase in tensions in society. We believe that the state must take responsibility for managing rising prices, especially given the situation of the most vulnerable members of society and the potential consequences for them. All the more so as companies such as Ignitis or Vilnius heating networks “has not only financial resources, but also a certain duty again,” sums up Lukas Tamulynas, the chairman of the LSDP Momentum Vilnius movement.

It should be said, that according to the Lithuanian Department of Statistics, prices for consumer goods and services have been rising for the eighth month in a row. According to the latest figures, the annual inflation rate is five percent.

Earlier it became known that in 2020 every fifth inhabitant of Lithuania was below the poverty risk line.

Pensioners are considered one of the most vulnerable groups in Lithuania. In 2019, Lithuania was included in the top five EU anti-leaders in terms of poverty risk for pensioners. The share of people over 65 at risk of poverty was 18.7 percent.

In such situation sanctions imposed on neighbouring countries which tightly connected to Lithuanian economy and directly influence the welfare of people in Lithuania are at least damaging. The more so, according Vladimir Andreichenko, the speaker of the House of Representatives of the Belarus parliament, “the unification of the economic potentials of Minsk and Moscow would be a good response to sanctions.” It turned out that Lithuania itself makes its opponents stronger. Such counter-productiveness is obvious to everyone in Lithuania except for its authorities.

Continue Reading

Publications

Latest

Trending