By Vafa Ismayilova
Azerbaijani civilians and soldiers continue to be killed by landmines that Armenia's armed forces planted on liberated territories. There seems to be no end to these incidents until Yerevan shares details about the locations of explosives in formerly occupied Azerbaijani lands.
Although three months have passed since the signing of the deal to establish peace in the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven adjacent districts, the lack of maps for the mined territories threatens regional peace and stability.
Armenian crimes continue
Azerbaijani and international officials and experts believe that through refusal to provide maps of mines Yerevan demonstrates an unconstructive approach, continuing its war crimes.
MP Azar Badamov believes that each case of a mine explosion on Azerbaijan's liberated territories is another crime of Armenia, Trend reported.
"The tripartite statement signed on November 10 last year is aimed at ensuring lasting and sustainable peace in the region. Although the parties agreed to resolve all issues at the negotiating table, Armenia does not provide a map of mined areas in our liberated lands," he said.
Badamov stressed that quite vast territories had been mined by Armenia over the past 30 years.
"Of course, the opposite side has a map of minefields. If it was not the case, then the Armenians themselves would have been blown up by mines over this period. As this did not happen, they have accurate information about this issue. Each case of a mine blast on Azerbaijan's liberated territories is another crime of Armenia," he noted, adding that Armenia will answer for it.
He regretted the silence of international organizations about the aforesaid facts.
Zhala Ahmadova, a member of the Azerbaijani parliament's human rights committee, described as unacceptable and contrary to international law steps by Armenia, which pursued a policy of mass mining on Azerbaijan's occupied territories.
Lack of goodwill
She noted that the convention on the prohibition of the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of anti-personnel mines entered into force on 1 March 1999. According to the convention, the use, manufacture, production, acquisition, collection and storage of anti-personnel mines are banned.
"Unfortunately, we do not see Armenia's goodwill in this issue. Armenia does not want to provide a map of mined areas. As always, it demonstrates destructiveness. At the same time, the intentions of the Armenians are clear. One of them is to kill as many people as possible, and the other is to slow down as much as possible the return of Azerbaijanis to the territories liberated by Azerbaijan. Armenia is committing a crime aimed at complicating and delaying the return of Azerbaijanis to their ancestral lands," the MP said.
Ahmadova stressed that by not providing the maps, Armenia slows down new infrastructure projects that Azerbaijan is launching in the liberated territories.
"As a result of the invaluable services and work of our government agencies, lands are cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance, inch by inch. However, if Armenia provides maps of our mined territories, the work will accelerate," she added.
Earlier, Russian military expert Igor Korotchenko voiced similar views. He said that Armenia's refusal to provide maps of mines placed in Azerbaijan’s formerly occupied territories demonstrates Yerevan’s unconstructive approach.
Korotchenko said that there are hundreds of square kilometres of mined areas on Azerbaijan’s liberated territories.
"Without a map, it’s difficult to ensure the safe return of peaceful Azerbaijanis who became internally-displaced persons 30 years ago. Unfortunately, we do not see the goodwill of Armenia in this matter. Armenia does not want to provide a map of mined territories as always,” Korotcheko said.
Military expert Shair Ramaldanov described as a lie the Armenian authorities’ allegations that maps of minefields for Azerbaijan’s formerly occupied territories do not exist.
“Of course, this is another lie of Armenia. The goal is clear - to achieve the death of as many people as possible and to delay as much as possible the process of return of Azerbaijanis to the liberated territories,” he noted.
The expert also pointed out that the mined area is rather large.
"The Azerbaijani government uses all available opportunities, taking necessary security measures and appealing to international organizations for demining the territories. Turkish specialists have also joined the demining process,” Ramaldanov said.
Bargaining item in talks
Russian political analyst Oleq Kuznetsov reported that according to the Centre for Humanitarian Demining, since November 23, 2020, Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh have neutralized almost 25,000 explosive objects, cleared of mines, other explosive devices and unexploded ordnance, almost 1,500 hectares of territory, four and a half hundred kilometres of roads, one and a half thousand houses and structures.
The expert said that the heavy mining of the liberated territories constituted a major threat not only to the life, health, and safety of people but was also a serious obstacle to the reintegration of the previously occupied territories into Azerbaijan's economic life.
Commenting on Armenia's refusal to provide the maps, Kuznetsov explained this with the defeated party’s unwillingness to reveal all its secrets to the war winner and an attempt to loudly slam the door before leaving the regional stage, or maybe the intention to turn the issue of sharing the mining maps into a bargaining item in negotiations or to obtain any benefits.
"In any case, the Armenian side is driven by the desire to continue the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, to somehow avenge the defeat and take moral revenge for losing the war," he concluded.
Sixteen Azerbaijanis – including 11 civilians – were killed in mine explosions in the newly-liberated territories since the end of the war on November 10.
Earlier President Ilham Aliyev urged Azerbaijanis not to visit the newly-liberated areas until they have been demined.
“I understand the wishes of those who have longed for their homeland for many years. Every former internally displaced person wants to return to his native village. But I must ask that they wait a bit longer until our work to clear the mines is completed,” Aliyev said, adding that Armenia refuses to submit the mine map.
The Azerbaijan Mine Action Agency earlier said that citizens are not allowed to visit them without special permission.
On February 3, Aliyev announced that mine clearance in the liberated lands would be the first step in the process to return IDPs to their homes. The president said that mine clearance was a big process as Armenians refuse to give Azerbaijan maps of minefields. “That is why explosions are frequent now. We are now reshaping the Mine Action Agency, and it will be more efficient now. But it will take some time. Of course, mine clearance work must be completed."
Aliyev signed a decree on February 2 on ensuring the activity of the Mine Clearance Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
Azerbaijan liberated around 300 villages, city centres, settlements and historic Shusha city in the war that lasted from September 27 and November 10. Other Armenian-occupied districts - Kalbajar, Aghdam and Lachin - returned to Azerbaijan's control after the singing of the Russian-brokered Karabakh peace deal on November 10.
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