Armenia reveals its readiness for negotiations with Azerbaijan regarding Arazdayan plant

Armenia's Minister of Environment Hakob Simidyan, addressing the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Tatiana Molcean, expressed readiness for negotiations with Azerbaijan regarding a metallurgical plant near Arazdayan (Yeraskh) village in Armenia, bordering Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

Back on June 3, 2023, Armenian Economy Minister Vaan Kerobyan announced through his social media account the construction of a large metallurgical plant on an area of 16,500 square meters with an annual production capacity of 108,000 tons near Arazdayan (Yeraskh) village in Armenia, near the border with Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic.

A video confirming this construction was also released.

In accordance with Article 3.1 of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe's (UNECE) Convention on Environmental Impact Assessment in a Transboundary Context, Armenia is obligated to officially inform Azerbaijan about the metallurgical plant to be constructed in the border area, as a country that could be affected by this project.

Furthermore, according to Article 5 of the Convention, Armenia has an obligation to engage in consultations with Azerbaijan.

In this context, it's notable that the proposed activity is included in the list of activities with expected transboundary impacts in Appendix 1 to the Convention. However, Azerbaijan did not receive an official notification from Armenia, nor were any consultations held with Azerbaijan.

When the information was made public in the press, Azerbaijan promptly responded to this issue and sent a letter to the Armenian side. The letter demanded that Armenia fulfill its obligations under the Convention, provide the necessary information to initiate consultations to identify the harmful transboundary impacts of the project, and halt the construction of the plant on this territory.

In the response letter from the Armenian side, it was stated that the Convention obligations were not violated, the stated activity would not have a significant negative impact on the environment in Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan's demands for consultations, document submission, and halting the construction of the plant on this territory were rejected.

Given these circumstances, in September of the current year, Azerbaijan, following Article 3.7 and Appendix 4 of the Convention, sent an appeal to the Executive Secretary of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Tatiana Molcean, for consideration of the matter.

The appeal to the Secretariat emphasized the urgent need to establish an investigative commission to determine the transboundary impact of the plant, demand from Armenia the immediate cessation of plant construction pending an assessment of its environmental impact, and provide assistance to Azerbaijan in obtaining possible information related to the construction, including the environmental impact assessment document and measures to mitigate potential impacts. A copy of the submission was duly forwarded to the Armenian side.

On October 13, 2023, on behalf of the Executive Secretary, a response letter was sent to Azerbaijan. The letter confirmed that Armenia has obligations to engage in discussions and provide documents related to environmental impact and project documents.

As a result of Azerbaijan's appeal to the UNECE Executive Secretary and consistent legal and diplomatic pressure on Armenia, on October 31, 2023, the minister of economy of Armenia made a statement to the press regarding the relocation of the plant to a new location (far from the border). 

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