Azerbaijan Jump-starts a Series of Economic Projects in its De-occupied Regions
Ilham Aliyev officially lays the foundation for the Araz Valley Industrial Park on October 4, 2021. Image: president.az
Over the past days, Baku has made several further moves towards creating a viable economic basis for the eventual return of IDP populations to the de-occupied regions. On October 4, the latest of these saw Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev symbolically pouring cement at a 200-hectare site in the Jebrayil Region that is set to become an industrial park, part of the new Araz Valley Economic Zone (Araz Vadisi İqtisadi Zonası). It’s a daring move given that, as yet, the flat, green-field site currently has no infrastructure whatever, and a 150-unit temporary ‘village’ of container-box homes will be required to house the construction workers. Eventually, however, the plan is for a multi-purpose facility that includes an agricultural processing centre, silk factory, warehousing, logistics centre and vehicle maintenance workshops to service the greater region: ready for when the full-scale repopulation of the area begins. Aliyev also inaugurated a power substation and various urban building projects in the same region.
This follows hot on the heels of last week’s signing of 30-year contracts between Azerbaijan’s Economic Ministry and a pair of Turkish companies to extract mineral ores at three separate sites.
The signing ceremony for the new mining concessions stems from an agreement whose basic principles had been hammered out back in May. Image: @enerjigazetesii/Twitter
Both companies belong to the Chingiz Holding group whose eponymous boss, Mehmet Cengiz, reported that the awarded rights were to gold reserves at Aghduzdagh in Kelbajar Region and two copper deposits on the Murovdagh massif, one at Elbaydash in Terter Region and the other near Gashgachay further west. Two of these three sites are in de-occupied areas.
We believe that this important step will play a vital role in launching the #extractiveindustry in our #liberatedterritories, facilitating the exploration of high-potential fields and encouraging their contribution to our economy.— Mikayil Jabbarov (@MikayilJabbarov) September 30, 2021
Azerbaijan’s Minister of the Economy, Mikayil Jabbarov, declared the contracts to be an “important step” for the development of mining industries in the re-gained territories. For many years Baku had to endure the exploitation of occupied Karabakh’s mineral wealth by Armenia as a further injustice heaped on top of the 1990s ethnic cleansing of the region. Some reports suggest that, pre-2020, as many as 60 mineral fields were being developed illegally in the occupied areas, some by Armenian companies others by foreign outfits. Laid out in January 2021, Aliyev’s action plan for Karabakh’s reconstruction includes seeking reparations from these entities or taking them to face international legal proceedings if they don’t come to terms.
Meanwhile, there is likely to be a fiscal headache for Armenian bureaucrats who had come to depend on income from the operations in the occupied zones. A further problem for Armenia is electricity supply since 30 of 36 hydroelectric plants within the occupied areas have been returned to Azerbaijani control since 2020. While many were damaged during (or just after) the war, at least three have come back online again during 2021, with work continuing on many more.
In the first half of 2021 alone, Azerbaijan has spent over a quarter of a billion Manats (around US$158 million) on post-war construction, with the largest share in Fizuli, where a brand new international-standard airport was built from scratch in just nine months.