Conflict, Cooperation, and the New ‘Great Game’ in the Kura-Araks Basin of the South Caucasus

As recently highlighted by the Water SISWEB, the Kura-Araks Basin of the South Caucasus may be the scene of conflict, cooperation, and a new ‘Great Game’ over water in Central Asia.  As the article notes:

The Kura-Araks river basin, the largest in the South Caucasus, is an international catchment with five countries – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, and Turkey – comprising its watershed. About 65% of the basin area (total = 188,200 km2) falls within the former Soviet republics of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, who share many similar circumstances: location in a politically unstable region; bureaucratic and structural issues; and more importantly, ongoing ethnic and related conflicts. Despite these obstacles, the countries recognize that they depend greatly on the basin, whose waters they must share. No water treaties exist among the former Soviet republics, so cooperation and collaboration among the three countries in the Kura-Araks Basin are essential to the stability of the region. To that end, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) – Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) South Caucasus River Monitoring project measures surface water quality and quantity in the Kura-Araks Basin in a transparent, collaborative fashion, promoting peace in a region critical to the West’s security.

The strategic significance of the region has increased in recent years due to the Caspian Basin hydrocarbon resources that are essential to the West. A resurgent, wealthy Russia and the West, engaged in a new ‘Great Game’, are jockeying for position in this all important region; water resources play an increasing role in this geopolitical realm. Cooperation among the three riparians and stability in the region thus become very important to the West.

…The main obstacle to cooperation is the lack of trust among the three countries due to the current political situation, especially the Nagorno-Karabakh situation. However, most individual interviewees (93%), regardless of their country of origin, were very positive about cooperating as individuals on transboundary water management; this illustrates the contrast between government policies and individuals’ opinions. The fact that individuals are willing to collaborate on water resource studies may generate an “upward diffusion” of trust to higher levels of government, perhaps enabling the South Caucasus countries to realize peace and security, and ensure the uninterrupted flow of oil and gas to the West.”

This entry was posted on Thursday, August 7th, 2008 at 12:09 pm and is filed under Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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