Illegal Exploration and Exportation of Natural Resources Ravages Nagorno-Karabakh

For more than 25 years, Azerbaijani authorities struggled to keep foreign companies away from operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. However, numerous organizations still managed to engage in exploration and exportation of natural resources from Karabakh, illegally and without the consent of the Azerbaijani government, international experts tell Conflict & War Report.

In an interview with Conflict & War Report, Rusif Huseynov, co-founder and director of the Topchubashov Center, an independent think tank based In Baku, says that the “ecocide” that Armenian and international companies have done to the region destroyed more than 260,000 hectares of forests.

“They were mostly engaged in exploiting the deposit of precious metals, such as silver and gold. The Zangilan gold mines were especially ravaged by the international companies usually affiliated with the Armenian diaspora (e.g. Swiss luxury watch brand Franck Muller, whose co-founder and CEO is Vartan Sirmakes, an ethnic Armenian).” Huseynov explained.

Media reports in the summer of 2020 published a list of foreign companies operating in Karabakh, “A Czech-based company became the biggest taxpayer in the so-called Nagorno-Karabakh Republic a few years ago. Dozens of Iranian firms did also have businesses in the region, by benefitting through the illegal cross-border transport routes and through money-laundering schemes.” Huseynov notes.

According to Baku-based international law expert Tural Ahmad, the damages from this ecocide could be worth well up to 50 billion dollars.

“After finishing the calculation of damages by independent experts, these crimes will be taken to international courts to claim monetary compensation in upcoming months, with the estimated cost being 50 billion dollars.” Ahmad told Conflict & War Report.

Ethnic Armenians leaving the region after the Russia-brokered peace agreement were not only burning their houses, but also cutting down trees in Kalbajar and taking them away with them in trucks and even in cars, media reports suggested.

Armenia also asked Azerbaijan for more time to withdraw its troops and civilians from Kalbajar until November 25, which Baku agreed to do as a sign of good faith.