The Nagorno Karabagh issue is in its core security issue. Artsakh’s future was very much endangered within Azerbaijan and Soviet system. The most important and basically the only security issue Artsakh faced in a situation of constant pressures, persecutions and seven decade long discrimination from Azerbaijan was to struggle for freedom. At the beginning the best way to achieve freedom and hence security was to change the status of Nagorno Karabagh, which under the Soviet Union had a status of autonomous region. Everybody was sure that if Nagorno Karabagh Autonomous Region (NKAR) changes its political status thus breaking away from Azerbaijan and restoring historical justice rejoins Armenia or proclaims its independence it could survive and be totally secure. On September 2, 1991 the former NKAR and Shaumyan region rejoined and proclaimed independent Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR). However, the war imposed on Artsakh by Azerbaijan clearly disseminated that Nagorno Karabagh Republic within the borders of 1991 is a nonviable state formation and very vulnerable to any hostile action on the part of Azerbaijan. NKR was under complete blockade, its territory and settlemen’s were under unceasing bombardment. Officially established ceasefire of May 1994 registered a completely new geo-strategic situation in the Nagorno Karabagh conflict zone. Shaumyan region entirely, some portions of Martakert and Martuni regions of NKR were occupied by Azerbaijan. Artsakh in turn managed to liberate five surrounding region entirely (Kelbajar, Lachin, Koubatli, Zangelan, Jebrail) and two partly (Fizouli and Agdam). By this Artsakh could establish strategic balance with Azerbaijan and actually minimized possible impacts from any possible hostile action on the part of Azerbaijan.
Currently at the negotiation table Azerbaijan deman’s the return of all these territories and does not even want to accept self-determination possibilities for Artsakh. However, the Armenian people must develop a viable immune system against temptations to gain a status at the expense of surrounding territories even if there are such offers. The crux of the problem is that without those territories irrespective of the status it will be impossible to provide security both for Artsakh and Armenia. To understand the importance of the liberated territories it is necessary comprehend their value. If one is unaware of the value of something he possesses, he would easily lose it. And as it always happens, especially in history of our people, after losing something it becomes almost certainly impossible to regain it.
In this short article we will mainly focus on the value of Kelbajar or Karvachar region, which is located north of Lachin or Kashatagh region. This region is of utmost importance for the future of both Artsakh and Armenia. It has basically all key security components ‘s military, political, economic, transport etc. However, there is a component, which will play much more significant role in security than all the above mentioned ones. Kelbajar is a guarantor on Artsakh and Armenia water security. This region is the hydro-donor of Artsakh. 85 percent of water resources originating within the borders of the former Nagorno Karabagh Autonomous Region originate in Kelbajar. Rivers Arpa and Vorotan, which via Arpa-Vorotan channel provide water for Lake Sevan (80 percent of Armenia water resources are concentrated in this lake) and help save Sevan from drying up originate in Kelbajar region too. Thus if Azerbaijan gains control over Kelbajar both Artsakh and Armenia will be under constant hydro-pressure and hydro-terror threat. In this situation no military or economic potential could compensate hydro-vulnerability of the two Armenian states.
It will be at least na?ve to think that Azerbaijan will not use water as a pressure leverage. Artsakh experienced this in Soviet times. Because of constant contamination of water resources supplying Armenian settlemen’s in Nagornyy Karabagh in 1990 Artsakh led the region of Southern Caucasus with the number of people with cancer. And this is in a situation when in 1970 it occupied the last place in the region by the number of people with cancer. Besides there were no industrial enterprises contaminating water and environment in Karabagh and Artsakh was very famous for its longevity and occupied the first place in the formed USSR with the number of people one hundred and more years old. By the way all scientists considered ecology and way of life of Karabagh people to be the key of their longevity. And in this situation the number of people with cancer skyrocketed. In 1991 Azerbaijan contaminated a river that supplied Stepanakert with water pouring in it chemical against mange. As a result some part of capital Stepanakert could not drink water from the tap because of nasty smell. Now Azerbaijan defame Armenia for burying nuclear waste in Kelbajar. We must be very serious about this disinformation because if Azerbaijan takes control over Kelbajar they could put nuclear components in water resources and contaminate Artsakh and Armenia and put the blame on us who allegedly buried nuclear waste, which contaminated water “by accident” du to for example a torrent or some other natural disaster. In this situation no international organizations could control this, especially in such a corrupted state like Azerbaijan, which even does not know about possible storages of radioactive materials. For example, director of the Institute of Radioactive Problems of the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences Adil Garibov in one of his interviews said that on the territory of Azerbaijan there are many sources of radiation which are lost and can be used for making explosives and dirty bombs for carrying out terrorist attacks.
In this situation the value of Kelbajar or historical Armenian Karvachar it is very much evident. Without this territory Armenian people may lose its independent statehood, something for which we have struggled so many centuries and shed so much blood. Now the Nagorno Karabagh war is waged not in battlefields but in minds of people. The winner will be one who fully comprehends the value of things he possesses. In this respect we should study what we have and not to forget this. We have long history and now we have to have also long memory and strong mind to win the battle. We should not forget that the future of our nation is at stake.
David Babayan, political analyst.