VIENNA, June 11, 2013 /PRNewswire/ --
The threat to the lives of more than 400,000 people living beneath a dangerously run-down reservoir in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh has forced this so-called "frozen conflict" back into the global spotlight, a conference in Vienna was told Monday.
The conference entitled The Geopolitics of Azerbaijan and European Energy Security heard about the emerging threat posed by the Sarsang Reservoir and its 125 metre high dam built by Azerbaijan in 1976.
During the two decades of Armenian occupation the dam has allegedly been denied essential maintenance and now engineers and hydrologists say it is in an "emergency condition," which means it is prone to structural failure or attacks by saboteurs.
As a result, Azerbaijan MP Elkhan Suleymanov told the conference, the people living in six regions downstream have much to fear.
"Sarsang reservoir has currently become a serious source of threat," he said of the dam that holds back a 12 kilometre long lake.
"Obviously, any accident will result in both ecological crisis and mass casualties of civilians and humanitarian crisis".
Another delegate, Italy's Former Vice-Minister of Trade and Industry Adolfo Urso, said the situation had echoes of the Vajont Dam disaster in his country in 1963, in which the over-topping of the dam caused more than 2000 deaths.
"I understand the concerns of the people of Azerbaijan," he said.
"With insufficient maintenance and repairs it will become a threat to mankind and the international community must turn its attention to these problems."
Meanwhile Professor Gerhard Mangott of the University of Innsbruck told the conference Nagorno-Karabakh "cannot be considered frozen conflict" due to these developments and the on-going aggression of Armenia. 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 continues to occupy 20% of Azerbaijani territory.
Separately, conference participants praised Azerbaijan as a model of religious tolerance in the region and beyond and discussed the country's role as a secure energy provider to Europe.
Azerbaijan's Energy Minister Natig Aliyev said that gas producers will soon choose between two competing European pipeline routes from his nation and they will make their choice based on which brings quicker returns.
The consortium behind the offshore Shah Deniz II project must choose between the troubled Nabucco pipeline running through the Balkans to Austria, or the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) via Greece and Italy.
The project now faces completion date as late as 2018.
SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor