The Azerbaijani government is drawing up plans to pump billions of government and private-sector dollars into the reconstruction of the three disputed districts of Nagorno-Karabakh that Armenian separatists have agreed to hand back.
Last week’s Russian-brokered peace deal has bought six weeks of brutal violence to a close. Under the terms of the deal, the districts of Aghdam, Lachin and Kalbajar will be returned to Azeri control by the end of the month and President Ilham Aliyev has been quick to pledge government funding for their economic resurrection.
“A master plan will be developed for each city,” he said this week during a visit that he and his wife Mehriban Aliyeva – Azerbaijan’s first vice-president – made to Jabraylil, one of the towns that is now back in Azeri control. “Office buildings, public buildings, schools and medical centres will be established. A whole new infrastructure will be put in place. Streets, parks and alleys will be built. Victory monuments will be erected in every city and life will return to normal.”
The reconstruction of the newly retaken Nagorno-Karabakh territories will take about 10 years and cost in the region of $15bn, according to economist Togrul Valiyevt. “There is basically no infrastructure left in Jabrayi, Fuzuli, Zangilan or Gubadly,” he told Eurasianet. ‘It’s going to cost about as much as Azerbaijan’s entire budget for a year.” Aliyev and his government will, therefore, be hoping that members of the Nagorno-Karabakh and wider Azeri diaspora will be sufficiently infused with a combination of patriotism and the entrepreneurial spirit to help meet the cost of the reconstruction.
In the meantime, Baku’s immediate priority will be to get the transport networks between the newly-reclaimed district and the rest of the country up and running again. Aliyev used his visit to Jabrayil to announce that a new road would be built from Fuzuli (on the far eastern end of the newly retaken territories) to Shusha, the key Azerbaijani city in the region. He specified further new road projects on his return to Baku.
Several state-owned enterprises have already set up temporary offices in the region to help restore basic water and power services and a joint venture between the government-controlled Azergold and an (as yet unnamed) foreign company has been formed to mine for gold in Zangilan, Vezhnali, and Kelbajar.