Perched on a cliff, overlooking Nagorno-Karabakh, the historic city of Shusha has been the subject, since its conquest by Azerbaijani troops, of all attention. On January 5, two months after the end of the war which saw Azerbaijan wrest a large part of this mountainous region from Armenia, President Ilham Aliyev consecrated this city, which had been ravaged by the fighting, “ cultural capital ” from the country.
Its heritage, he promises, will be restored ” without wasting time », And a major poetry festival will be held there from 2021, during which a new international airport will be inaugurated. A highway and a railway line are also being built to connect this future showcase of victory to Azerbaijan. But the projects do not stop at Choucha. Barely two days later, on January 7, Ilham Aliyev announced the construction of a second airport in Nagorno-Karabakh.
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As if he was opening a new pioneering front, this authoritarian president who came to power in 2003 has been chanting tirelessly, since the peace agreement of November 9, projects aimed at enhancing the conquered territories of Nagorno-Karabakh. A reconstruction that will mean the opening of” a new era “ for Azerbaijan, he promised at a grandiose military parade in Baku on December 10. But the task is immense, and the challenges numerous.
A long demining in the conquered regions
Reclaimed areas are littered with mines and unexploded artillery munitions. Officials from the Azerbaijani mine clearance agency said their removal could take up to ten years. Joined by The cross, Hikmet Hajiyev, adviser to President Aliyev on international issues, affirms that this process will be gradual, and will clean up as a priority the inhabited areas, in order to allow the return of the hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani refugees, who fled these territories during the conquest of the region by Armenia in the early 1990s.
Few will find their home. The damage inflicted by the recent conflict is superimposed on the ravages caused by this first war, and the destruction caused by the Armenians in the years that followed. The city of Agdam, which once had 25,000 inhabitants, has become a ghost town. Elsewhere, the most basic infrastructure is often lacking. According to several experts, rebuilding the region in a way that allows its repopulation could cost tens of billions of dollars. An amount that far exceeds the capacities of Azerbaijan, whose economy has been hit by the pandemic.
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“Mechanisms are being studied to attract investment, such as tax exemptions or a free economic zone, but the priority is heavy infrastructure, which will be largely financed by the State, and by public partnerships. private “, explains Hikmet Hajiyev. Several important contracts have already been signed with Turkish companies. However, it is difficult to interest international investors without the promise of lasting peace. Alas, on this aspect, the prospects are slim.
The agreement that ended the fighting remains flawed, and needs to be negotiated further. They are very likely to stumble on the central issue of the status to be accorded to Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh. Yerevan asserts their right to self-determination. Baku doesn’t want to hear about it. However, as long as the Russian peacekeeping force is present in the region, Azerbaijan will not be able – as this autumn – to use force to overturn the status quo. The absence of a resolution risks damaging the development prospects of the region, and with them, the ” new era »Sketched out by President Aliyev.
The main dates of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh
1988-1994. First Nagorno-Karabakh war. The Armenians seize the region, and take control of seven surrounding Azerbaijani districts.
Avril 2016. The “four-day war” marks the failure of the peace process under the aegis of the Minsk group (France, Russia, United States)
September 27, 2020. Beginning of the “Second Nagorno-Karabakh War”. The troops
Azerbaijani assault the Armenian defenses.
November 9, 2020. A peace agreement negotiated by Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia marks the Armenian defeat. The regions occupied since 1994 by Armenia have been returned to Azerbaijan.