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Conference on mine issue shines light of hope for mine-free future

30 May 2024 14:11 (UTC+04:00)
Conference on mine issue shines light of hope for mine-free future
Elnur Enveroglu
Elnur Enveroglu
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Mine threat is still one of the world's most priority problems on the international agenda. The main source of the problem is the consequences of merciless wars.

Unfortunately, Azerbaijan is at the forefront among the countries suffering from the mine problem nowadays. The reason for this is the heavy mining of the Garabagh and Eastern Zangazur regions, which have been under occupation for more than 30 years, especially the former contact lines.

The Conference themed "Mitigating Environmental Impact of Landmines: Resource Mobilization for Safe and Green Future," and held for the third time with the initiative of the Azerbaijan Republic held a mirror to the current problem in the country.

The main point of the conference was remembered with the address of President Ilham Aliyev to the conference participants. In his speech, the head of state pointed out that one of the most important values, human life, is in danger due to the threat of landmines.

Today, Azerbaijan is carrying out rapid reconstruction works to rekindle a new life in the territories freed from occupation. All the work done now leads to the full realisation of the Great Return project. However, the enemy hiding under the soil still creates serious obstacles to this.

According to President Ilham Aliyev, the landmine problem is delaying post-conflict elimination. As long as there is death and misery, the conflict will be refreshed. The only way to get rid of it is to eliminate the mine problem once and forever.

In addition, the problem of landmines, the scourge of humanity, hinders the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. As the head of state noted, almost half a decade has passed since the conflict, but the issue is still on the agenda as a serious problem.

One of the other dangers and consequences of the mine problem is the deadly damage it causes to the environment and nature. Since man is a part of nature, the poisoning of our environment and turning it into a dangerous area is also included among the topics of concern. The president of Azerbaijan did not overlook this issue either. He emphasized that as long as this problem exists, it will lead to more serious threats and once again mentioned the importance of discussing this issue at COP29, which will be hosted by Azerbaijan at the end of this year.

"Mines that remain unearthed for a long time can lead to hazardous chemical reactions. The soil not in use due to the threat of mines is subjected to erosion and abrasion. Therefore, it is particularly significant that today’s conference is organized in the run-up to the 29th Session of the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change – COP29, which Azerbaijan will host," the President said.

Mine problem is one of the most serious problems of Azerbaijan. Enduring thirty years of occupation and then facing the threat of landmines, as well as human casualties and many unfortunate events after the conflict, is a severe test for the country. The fact that the territories are free from occupation does not mean all problems are resolved. More than 1.5 million mines and countless unexploded ordnance cover about 12 per cent of the de-occupied land. This is indeed, a bitter truth.

Since the end of the war in 2020, 361 Azerbaijani citizens, mostly civilians, have fallen victim to a mine explosion, resulting in 68 deaths and 293 severe injuries. Overall, since the beginning of Armenia’s aggression against Azerbaijan, over 3400 of our citizens have suffered from mines, including 358 children and 38 women. The steady increase in the number of mine victims is associated with Armenia’s refusal to provide accurate maps of the mines it planted across Azerbaijan’s territory, and with placing booby traps along the roads, cemeteries, and other civilian facilities located behind the former line of contact. From 2020 to 2023, new mine zones were created stretching up to 500 kilometres, new mines were planted in Azerbaijan.

Certainly, responsibility for that rests with Armenia.

Return of 800 thousand formerly displaced persons is still outstanding

Challenges Azerbaijan faces on demining also hamper the country’s development and recovery efforts, creating serious obstacles for the return of 800 thousand formerly displaced persons.

President Ilham Aliyev also touched on this issue while addressing the conference.

"Humanitarian demining is among the top priorities of Azerbaijan’s state policies, and the foundation of that was laid by the National Leader of the Azerbaijani people – Heydar Aliyev. Today, the primary body in charge of humanitarian demining in Azerbaijan is the Mine Action Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan – ANAMA.

So far, some 140 thousand hectares have been cleared of 119,946 mines and unexploded ordnances. Yet, mined areas stretch far beyond that. Mines are easy to plant but mine clearance is a much more difficult and complex process. In a short span of time, Azerbaijan has mobilized all its strength and is using the most advanced and cutting-edge technologies available worldwide. We are implementing measures to enhance efficiency in mine clearance, and our capabilities have significantly improved compared to previous years. All-women demining teams have also been deployed since last year."

Certainly, as mentioned by the President, Azerbaijan is currently implementing humanitarian demining at its own expense. However, adequate political and practical support from the international community for mitigating the humanitarian consequences of mines and demining the affected areas are of utmost significance.

At the same time, Azerbaijan has comprehensively informed the international community about the landmine problem and brought the problems to their attention. This is a clear manifestation of the official launching of the humanitarian demining initiative in the 18th Sustainable Development Goals of the UN. In addition, Azerbaijan's launching initiative to establish a Special Contact Group on Humanitarian Demining within the Non-Aligned Movement is another important step towards tackling this issue globally.

Further to the address of the President, he said that in the past three years, Azerbaijan has hosted a number of international conferences, in collaboration with the UN, dedicated to the subject of mines. Along with being leading platforms for the discussion of mine action matters, these events draw greater attention to this significant problem that troubles humanity in the modern era. Presently, Azerbaijan is working with the UN to establish the "Centre of Excellence" to provide education on the mine action. A letter of intent is due to be signed between the ANAMA and the UN Development Programme on the sidelines of this Conference. This notable development will allow Azerbaijan to share its expertise with countries that face similar problems.

Today’s international event is a clear manifestation of Azerbaijan’s determination to eliminate the existing mine threat in the South Caucasus region. These events in Baku shine a light of hope for tomorrow's mine-free future. Each step taken also brings experience to the country and creates a fertile environment for a healthy life for future generations.

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Elnur Enveroglu is AzerNews’ Deputy Editor-in-Chief; follow him on @ElnurMammadli1

Follow us on Twitter @AzerNewsAz

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