YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Azeri deputy Foreign Minister Tofik Zulfugarov reportedly questioned Armenia’s claim over the Zod gold mine in the Vardenis region of Armenia Tuesday.
The issue was raised after two diplomatic notes had been exchange over the past two years between Azerbaijan and the US–whose ongoing investment to continue mining at Zod was declared illegal by Azerbaijan.
Asked to comment on the situation–spokesman of the Armenian Foreign Ministry–Arsen Gasparian stated that "the Zod mine is not the Caspian Sea–and it is regrettable that Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry is again apparently seeking to obstruct the normalization of relations in the region."
Gasparian asserted–"The Zod mine and territory have historically been recognized as part of Armenian territory–continuously mined by Armenia for centuries–and acknowledged as part of Armenia in pre-Soviet maps–Soviet Council of Ministers’ maps–and American as well as other countries’ maps. These maps clearly place the border several kilometers from the easternmost point of the mine and the underground workings clearly trend west. Diplomatic recognition of both Armenia and Azerbaijan starting in 1991 included Armenian sovereignty over Zod.
The current mine was developed in the 1970’s by Armenian government authorities and has been operated continually by the Armgold State Enterprise.
Although there were some efforts during the Soviet period to place part of the Zod mine in Soviet Azerbaijan–those efforts never succeeded–and there has never been a legal demarcation of the Armenian-Azerbaijan border placing any part of the mine in Azerbaijan.
"The United States has not advised Armenia of its receipt of the purported diplomatic notes. In fact–the United States actively promoted this American investment–and the United States Ambassador signed the initial Joint Venture agreement as a witness.
As a legal matter–Armenian sovereignty of the entire Zod deposit is established de jure and de facto.
Since independence in 1991–Azerbaijan has never officially protested or questioned sovereignty of the mining at Zod to Armenia–thereby acknowledging Armenia’s sovereignty.
The mountains east of the mine actually form a natural border which render Zod inaccessible from Azerbaijan
All road–rail–and utility access to the mine comes from the west. Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry is well aware of this reality. Any current attempts to remove the Zod mine from Armenian territory are a serious violation of Armenia’s territorial integrity–have no legal merit–and are recognized only as a weak attempt to promote hostility instead of good faith.
As a Caspian Sea basin country whose waters play an important role in feeding the Caspian and for the good of peaceful regional economic development– Armenia’sincerely hopes that Azerbaijan will abandon ill-advised efforts to question Armenian sovereignty over a foreign investment in Zod," concluded Gasparian
According to Gasparian–the attempts of separating the mines in Zod from the Armenian territory are a serious violation of Armenia’s territorial integrity–which are in no way legally grounded.