By Vafa Ismayilova
After winning a decisive victory over Armenia in the six-week-long Second Nagorno-Karabakh War Azerbaijan plans to inaugurate the post-war creation era in 2021 to revive its ruined territories liberated from the Armenian occupation.
The country has set as its main task to turn the region into the corner of paradise in the world. The recent government meeting on the results of 2020 chaired by President Ilham Aliyev outlined plans and tasks for 2021 in Azerbaijan.
Economic and transport links
The victory in the war opened up a range of new opportunities for the country itself and the region as a whole. Some experts believe that although for most of the world, the past year will go down in history as the year of challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, for Azerbaijan it was the most dynamic and remarkable one since its independence in 1991.
Some local experts believe that the importance and consequences of the past year's events will reverberate not just for Azerbaijan and but also the future geopolitics of the region.
Analyst Fuad Chiragov reiterated that under the November 2020 trilateral ceasefire agreement that put an end to the 44-day war all economic and transport links between Azerbaijan and Armenia and in the region shall be unblocked after having sat unused for 30 years.
President Ilham Aliyev signed in Moscow on January 11 a new statement along with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to implement clause 9 of the November 2020 trilateral peace deal related to the unblocking of all economic and transport communications in the region.
"This area can impart great dynamism to the development of the region and strengthen security. The opening of transport communications is in the interests of the peoples of Azerbaijan, Armenia, Russia and our neighbours,” Aliyev said.
He expressed confidence that “the neighbouring countries will also extensively join the creation of a diversified network of transport corridors and arteries in our region. We must continue to try to find areas of activity that are effective and result-oriented in the short term”.
Aliyev said the statement aimed at creating a completely new regional situation and unblocking transport communications, opens up great prospects.
“It is of great importance for us because after more than 30 years, Azerbaijan will have transport communication with its Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic through the territory of Armenia. Armenia will have a railway communication with Russia and Iran through the territory of Azerbaijan. We will also have access to the Turkish market through the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic and Turkish and Russian railway arteries will also be connected. In other words, this statement opens up great prospects,” he said.
New roads, railways and airports
Against the background of efforts to revive the liberated territories, Azerbaijan has already started building new roads under the relevant presidential instruction. The construction of the Ahmadbayli-Alkhanli-Fuzuli-Shusha road is underway. Moreover, a road will be built from Horadiz city in Fuzuli region to Zangilan, from there to Gubadli, and then to Lachin. Thus, a road transport infrastructure to Lachin and Kalbajar regions will be created on both sides - from the north and from the south. A new international airport will be built either in Lachin or Kalbajar. The construction of an international airport in Fuzuli will begin soon. Two international airports will contribute to the restoration of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, the transportation of goods, and the development of the tourism sector.
After the construction of the Horadiz-Fuzuli railway, the Fuzuli-Shusha railway will be built. At the same time, the Horadiz-Agbend railway will be rebuilt. This railway is of particular importance for the opening of the Nakhchivan corridor.
Azerbaijan has large-scale plans for the development of the tourism sector in the liberated lands. The construction of a new airport in Fuzuli will affect the progress of the tourism sector.
“The tourism potential is quite high in Azerbaijan and the opening of new tourist centres in the Nagorno-Karabakh region will become an even bigger winning scenario for the country," political analyst Ahmad Alili said.
Political expert Ilgar Velizade noted that after the opening of the new airport in Fuzuli, it will be possible to increase passenger transportation in this direction.
"Today the regions near Fuzuli are considered as important areas for the tourism sector. First of all, these are the cultural capital of Azerbaijan – Shusha city, part of Khojavend region and Hadrut. Azykh cave will become a very important tourist site. Tourists will be able to visit Zangilan, Gubadli, and Jabrayil regions, which are relatively near Fuzuli city, through the modern system of roads, which will be built soon,” Velizade added.
He added that the Fuzuli airport will receive citizens from other countries, which is very important. People interested in the Nagorno-Karabakh region, its history, natural beauty, will be able to use this route bypassing Baku. The construction of hotels in the liberated lands will create a basis for increasing the tourist flow, Velizade added.
Special interest in the region will be shown by tourists from Turkey, Russia, Azerbaijanis living there, as well as tourists from the Central Asian countries and Iranian citizens who show great interest in the region and its history, he noted.
Renewable energy resources
The liberated territories also have great potential for renewable energy sources such as hydropower, solar, wind, bioenergy and geothermal energy. Azerbaijan plans to build the hydropower plants at the Khudaferin and Giz Galasi dams. A solar power plant with a capacity of 200 megawatts is planned to be built in Nagorno-Karabakh. An energy system that meets the most modern standards will be created in the liberated lands.
Relevant agencies are drawing up the Action Plan covering the work to be done in the field of calculating the exact potential of renewable energy sources, cooperation with relevant bodies in this area, as well as activities in the direction of installation of measuring observation stations in areas with high solar and wind energy potential.
It has been defined that there are eight areas with high solar energy potential on the territory of Kalbajar, Lachin, Gubadli, Zangilan, Jabrayil, and Fuzuli regions. Although it may seem possible to deploy solar power plants with a total capacity of 7,214 MW in these areas, the total potential here is estimated at more than 4,000 MW, given that some parts of the southern area may have agricultural purposes. The potential of wind energy in the mountainous areas of Karabakh is estimated at over 500 megawatts and most areas with this potential are located in Kalbajar and Lachin regions.
Azerbaijan currently reviews electricity generation prospects of major rivers such as Tartar, Bazarchay, Hakari and their branches given that 25 percent of Azerbaijan's local water resources are located in Karabakh. The existing hydropower stations are located mainly in Tartar, Lachin, and Kalbajar regions and preparations are underway to start restoration work at some small hydropower plants.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region has rich natural resources, and along with the development of tourism, it can also become a centre of the metallurgical and mining industry.
The liberated territories, which are rich in ore minerals - gold, cobalt, copper, manganese can become a raw material basis for the development of non-ferrous metallurgy and the production of microelectronics in Azerbaijan. Some analysts believe that the technological basis for the extraction of most of the minerals has been disrupted, which will require expensive reconstruction, but the investments will be justified because after the restoration of the mining industry, a chain of new industries - metallurgy, electricity, mechanical engineering will be formed.
Expert Ahmad Alili said that it is expedient to attract foreign investments from European countries, Iran, Russia, Turkey in the region.
“Foreign investments will attract the attention of all countries to the geoeconomics of the region. The government is interested in the participation of international corporations in the development of the region," he said.
Among potential promising spheres that will considerably contribute to the country's economy, is the development of agriculture in Karabakh. Fertile lands in the region will increase Azerbaijan's export potential. President Aliyev gave relevant instructions to search for new markets for agricultural products. The region, which is planned to become a model for the whole world as a green energy zone, has the potential to develop grain and vegetable growing, viticulture, cotton and fruit growing, animal husbandry, poultry farming, beekeeping.
Economic expert Vusal Gasimov believes that Karabakh has resources, strategic assets, efficiency and markets that can attract investor interest. The region's opportunity to enter the Iranian market with the population estimated to 80 million and Turkish market covering 83 million people (through Nakhchivan) is attractive for export-oriented investments.
Gasimov said that the post-conflict reconstruction will play an important role in terms of economic security, including food security. Various mechanisms can be used to encourage investment in these areas, including industrial parks and districts, agro and technoparks.
"In general, Karabakh will be a geographical driver in Azerbaijan, the growth centre. Investments in this region and reconstruction activities will accelerate the GDP growth in Azerbaijan," Gasimov said.
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