Water Reservoir sparks diplomatic tussel
28 January 2016

The Council of Europe has debated two motions criticizing Armenian behaviour in Nagorno-Karabakh, adopting one and rejecting the other, sparking strong reactions from politicians in the region.

The first resolution, which was adopted by the council’s parliamentary assembly (PACE) in Strasbourg on Tuesday, said those who live in the regions of Azerbaijan which border Nagorno-Karabakh are deliberately deprived of water, with Armenian engaging in “environmental aggression”.

The Sarsang reservoir, located within the Nagorno-Karabakh region, has not been properly maintained since the early-1990s conflict, despite many Azerbaijanis relying on it, according to the report prepared by Milica Markovic, a Bosnian parliamentarian,

The reservoir was built in the 1970s by Soviet authorities, and became a hot button issue after control of it passed between sides following the early 1990s war between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Its state of disrepair could lead to a “major disaster with great loss of human life”, and the humanitarian situation merits “the immediate withdrawal of Armenian armed forces from the region concerned” to allow experts to inspect the reservoir, Markovic’s motion said.

Armine Alexanyan, deputy minister of foreign affairs for the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, said the reservoir is located in Karabakh territory which cannot be violated under international law, so inspectors cannot enter without an invitation.

Armenian defense minister Seyran Ohanyan also criticised the motion, saying Karabakhians should be allowed focus on their own security.

However Hikmat Hajiyev, spokesman for the Azerbaijani foreign ministry, said Armenian military actions in Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories have created humanitarian and environmental problems for Azerbaijani citizens living in the region. He supported the PACE motion.

“The document also underlines the fact that the lack of regular maintenance work for over 20 years on the Sarsang reservoir, located in one of the areas of Azerbaijan occupied by Armenia, poses a danger to the whole border region,” he told Azernews.

Critics of the motion said Markovic did not visit the reservoir before submitting her motion, but her supporters, including Hajiyev, have said Armenian authorities cancelled a prospective trip.

A second motion, proposed by British representative Robert Walter, criticized the “escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh and the other occupied territories of Azerbaijan” by Armenian troops, and called on them to leave the region. It was narrowly rejected.

Sources: with and

photo: The Sarsang Reservoir (photo by Sergei Yakovlev)