VIENNA, June 10, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
Azerbaijan is ready to play a greater role in Europe's long-term energy security but it has reminded the international community that in return, Europe, its biggest energy recipient, must acknowledge the security issues it faces at home.
The conference in Vienna entitled The Geopolitics of Azerbaijan and European Energy Security, heard Monday from Azerbaijani and EU politicians, diplomats and experts in international oil and gas. It was told that the US $60 billion invested in Azerbaijan's energy infrastructure since independence means it is well placed to exploit its 2.6 trillion cubic metres proven reserves of natural gas.
"We can produce a whole lot more," said Azerbaijan Energy Minister Natig Aliyev.
But his Azerbaijan parliamentary colleague Elkhan Suleymanov, warned the stability that has made this bonanza possible is tested on a daily basis by a conflict most gas end-users ignore - the occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh by Armenia for the past 21 years.
"The amount of pecuniary damage caused by this war is $US431.5 billion," he said, quoting from the study published in the U.S. in 2012 called The Invasion of Azerbaijani Lands.
He also highlighted the latest threat to his nation; the dilapidated Sarsang Reservoir in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh that engineers and hydrologists recently confirmed is at risk of catastrophic failure and at the mercy of saboteurs due to a lack of maintenance.
"The Sarsang reservoir is in emergency condition," Suleymanov told the conference.
"Thus the lives of 400,000 people in six provinces of Azerbaijan are in danger."
Despite resolutions in the United Nations, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Parliament, Armenia still occupies 20 percent of Azerbaijani territory.
The ongoing aggression in Nagorno-Karabakh, said Professor Gerhard Mangott of the University of Innsbruck, proves Nagorno-Karabakh "cannot be considered a frozen conflict".
Israeli Ambassador to Austria, Aviv Shir-On, said his nation and Azerbaijan are both "small nations in difficult neighborhoods" adding, "We appreciate the efforts of Azerbaijan to establish trade and energy policies but also a foreign policy consisting of delicate balances vis-a-vis international and regional organisations."
The event was moderated by former Austrian Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer, who said nations have a habit of forgetting conflicts like Nagorno-Karabakh because "the newest conflict is the most interesting conflict".
He closed by urging the international community to do more to help find an end of Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijani territory, for humanitarian reasons as much as reasons of energy security.
SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor