Azeris Claim Karabakh Conflict Threatens Development

UNITED NATIONS (Dow Jones)–The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict represents a "serious obstacle" to economic development in the region–Tofik Zulfugarov–Azerbaijan’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

The conflict also could slow plans to develop pipelines to carry the vast oil and natural gas resources of the Caspian Sea region to world markets–said Zulfugarov in his address to the United Nations General Assembly.

"Carrying out plans to deliver carbohydrate resources produced by Azerbaijan and other countries of the Caspian basin…is an integral part of the ‘East-West’ concept," Zulfugarov said.

"However–it is with regret that we have to admit that the model of progressive development of the sovereign states of the region–proposed by Azerbaijan–is not accepted by all," he added.

Zulfugarov said the conflict was "the key issue of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy." Tuesday–he reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the cease fire–and called on Armenia to accept the foundations for peace talks established by the Minsk Group.

"Nobody should have any doubts as to the fact that progressive development of the states of the region can only be achieved through establishment of just and lasting peace and stability in the South Caucasian region"’ Zulfugarov said.

Azerbaijan has proven oil reserves of 3.6 billion to 11 billion barrels–and possible reserves of 27 billion barrels. Proven natural gas are 11 trillion cubic feet with a possible 35 Tcf of unproven reserves–according to the US Energy Information Administration.

However–developing those assets as well as export pipelines to deliver oil and gas to world markets face serious political obstacles.

The legal status of the Caspian Sea remains unresolved. Azerbaijan favors a Russian plan to divide the Caspian Sea seabed according to the Law of the Sea–which would establish maritime boundaries based on the equidistant division of the sea. Kazakstan also favors such a settlement.

However–Iran opposes such a division–while Turkmen’stan’s position is unclear.

Plans to build multiple pipelines from the Caspian Basin face difficult political hurdles–with countries in the region battling for transport fees.

The first oil produced by an international consortium developing Caspian Sea reserves in Azerbaijan crossed into Russia in January.

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