By Vafa Ismayilova
Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov has appealed to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres requesting him to take measures to urge Armenia to provide maps of minefields on Azerbaijan’s liberated lands.
"I appeal to you with an urgent request to take all measures at your disposal to persuade Armenia to live up to its obligation under customary international law by releasing information regarding the location of the minefields, and cease all actions and statements impeding the realization of the vision of peace, security and cooperation envisaged in the trilateral statement [Karabakh peace deal]," he said.
Bayramov made the remarks in a letter addressed to Guterres on February 22, which has later been circulated as a document of the UN General Assembly and the Security Council.
Bayramov drew the UN secretary-general's attention to the serious threat emanating from the massive contamination of Azerbaijan's recently liberated territories with mines and other explosive devices deployed by Armenia, and the latter’s refusal to release information regarding the minefields in those territories.
The minister added that over almost three decades of occupation of Azerbaijan's internationally-recognized territories, Armenia massively laid mines in these territories, as a result of which there were numerous casualties among the Azerbaijani military and civilians.
"With a view to inflicting as much damage as possible, as well as creating additional obstacles for the return of civilians, Armenia has also deliberately planted mines on a massive scale during its forced withdrawal as a result of the counteroffensive operation of the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan, in blatant violation of international humanitarian law," the letter said.
Bayramov stressed that the mines and other explosive devices on the liberated territories pose a serious threat to the life and safety of the Azerbaijani military and civilians in the post-conflict period.
"Since the signing of the trilateral statement by the leaders of Azerbaijan, Russia and Armenia on 10 November 2020, which announced an end to all military activities between Armenia and Azerbaijan, 15 citizens of Azerbaijan, including 9 civilians, have been killed and 65 citizens, including 8 civilians, have been seriously wounded as a result of mine explosions in the recently liberated territories," he added.
The minister underlined that the massive mine contamination of the liberated territories also seriously impedes the implementation of the wide-ranging rehabilitation and reconstruction plans that the Azerbaijani government embarked on.
"Most importantly, it affects the realization of the inalienable right of the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons to return to their homes in safety and dignity. Although Armenia and Azerbaijan signed the document on cessation of military activities on 10 November 2020, Armenia refuses to release information concerning the location of the minefields. This is a blatant violation of Armenia’s obligation under customary international humanitarian law. The human costs inflicted by the Armenian-planted mines cannot but constitute a war crime," Bayramov added.
He described the release of information by Armenia on the location of the minefields as an absolute necessity so as to avoid further loss of innocent lives and to move forward towards a speedy post-conflict reconstruction and thereby help a lasting peace.
"Armenia’s consistent disregard of our repeated appeals to release information on the location of the minefields seriously questions that country’s sincerity for a normalization of relations with Azerbaijan on the basis of mutual recognition of and respect for each other’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of international borders," he said.
The minister said that this destructive stance of Armenia is not an isolated case.
"As I informed you previously, Armenia has also resorted to other destabilizing actions and statements aimed at undermining the emerging perspectives of regional peace and security, such as the deployment of a sabotage group into the territories of Azerbaijan to commit terror acts against Azerbaijan almost two weeks after the signing of the trilateral statement, and whom it cynically requests to release," Bayramov said.
Some experts believe that Armenia spent $350 million to mine lands in and around Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region that were liberated from occupation in the 44-day war.
At a presser for the local and foreign media in Baku on February 26, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev described Armenia’s failure to provide the maps of mined areas in liberated lands as the main difficulty for Azerbaijan. He said that this can also be considered to be a war crime as several servicemen and civilians were killed in mine blasts on liberated territories after the war.
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