By Vafa Ismayilova
The lack of any international crackdown on Armenia over its refusal to submit mine maps to Azerbaijan to avoid further civilian casualties emboldens Yerevan to continue in the same vein.
A series of statements made by international agencies following the killing of three civilians, two of them being journalists, in Azerbaijan’s Kalbajar region on June 4 proves that the world is in no hurry to put pressure on Armenia. It is believed that unbalanced international pro-Armenian policy also contributes to tragedies caused by Armenia-planted mines.
Lack of international condemnation
Following the deadly incident, Azerbaijani First Vice-President Mehriban Aliyeva said that since the end of a 44-day war, more than 140 Azerbaijanis had fallen victims to mines in liberated territories.
“Twenty-seven of them died. Responsibility for the death of innocent people rests squarely with the military-political leadership of Armenia," she said.
Aliyeva regretted that Azerbaijan's calls to the OSCE Minsk Group countries and various international organizations for pressure to be put on Armenia to issue landmine maps had yielded no results.
"International nongovernmental organizations acting as champions of journalistic rights remain tight-lipped as well! The Azerbaijani people are victorious people! It is impossible to break their resolve or intimidate them!," Aliyeva said.
Earlier, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement, urging the international community not to turn a blind eye to Armenia’s policy to deliberately plant mines in Azerbaijani lands. The ministry said that Armenia in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention, deliberately and constantly plants mines on Azerbaijani territories, thereby being the major threat to regional peace, security, and cooperation.
It added that Yerevan bears all the responsibilities for the civilian Azerbaijanis becoming the victims of mines while performing their duties.
Armenia continues to refuse to provide maps of hundreds of thousands of mines it had planted on the Azerbaijani territories over three decades of occupation. Azerbaijan has made numerous appeals to international organizations and lodged an intergovernmental complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over Armenia's refusal to provide maps of mines in the formerly occupied territories.
President Ilham Aliyev on April 20 said that Armenia’s refusal to provide mine maps amounts to another war crime committed by Yerevan. He also said that demining of the newly-liberated territories will be the first stage in the process to return Azerbaijani IDPs to their homes.
Calls to France
French MP Frederique Dumas said that France should urge Armenia to disclose the map of landmines in Azerbaijan.
"Civilians shouldn’t be hostages of the conflict - neither in Armenia nor in Azerbaijan. Both sides must comply with international law... France and the international community should demand from Armenia to provide maps of landmines,” Dumas noted.
French Senator Nathalie Goulet said that Armenia, contrary to international law, refuses to provide maps of mines. She said that by leaving the illegally occupied territories of Azerbaijan, the Armenians, aware of their defeat, mined Azerbaijani areas. Goulet questioned the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs about the situation in Karabakh.
"I would like to know what steps the ministry intends to take so that Armenia communicates the maps to the government of Azerbaijan. Awaiting response from the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs," she noted.
She stressed that in addition to the destruction which has been the subject of numerous recommendations of the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe for years, there is the question of demining.
The French senator stressed that the “international community, and especially France must stop the unbalanced policy in favor of Armenia".
“I visited the Mine Action Agency of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The international community must help Azerbaijan to clean all landmines and help the peace process by a fair and balanced policy... I ask my European colleagues to travel to Azerbaijan to make their own opinion, instead of supporting the Armenian lobby for electoral reasons,” Goulet added.
She said that France must ask Armenians the map of the landmines to avoid other tragedies.
Goulet said that France and the international community must help Azerbaijan clean landmines on the liberated territories.
Meanwhile, France’s Musulmans en France newspaper questioned “how many more victims should we expect before France which, let us remember it, co-chairs the OSCE Minsk Group, reacts and takes the necessary measures so that the Armenian government finally respects the law? It is for the safety of everyone, the Armenian people as well as the Azerbaijani people".
US expert Peter Tase said that many Azerbaijani civilians have lost their lives due to landmines planted by Armenian fascist forces inside Azerbaijan's territory.
“Fascist Armenian armed forces have become abhorrent and are Europe’s main source of evil and human losses in modern times. The deaths of Siraj Abishov (AZ TV channel’s cameraman, born in 1989), and of Maharram Ibrahimov (AZERTAC agency journalist), are tragic news in the history of European Free Press and Media Reporting,” he said.
He added that it is abhorrent to see that two distinguished journalists have lost their lives in very tragic circumstances and French and other European bureaucrats act as nothing had happened.
“It is fundamental for all of us to continue denouncing the monstrous crimes that Armenian autocrats and military thugs have committed and continue to orchestrate against the territorial sovereignty of Azerbaijan and inflicting irreparable wounds to the Azerbaijani society by NOT sharing the landmine installation maps that could help save many innocent lives inside the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan,” he said.
Trend News Agency’s editor-in-chief Rufiz Hafizoglu noted that Armenia, encouraged by the silence of international organizations, continues to commit war crimes on Azerbaijani territories.
Hafizoglu regretted the lack of Armenia’s international condemnation although a day had passed since the killing of journalists.
“Unfortunately, no international organization has condemned Armenia. Teresa Ribeiro, the media representative of the OSCE, an organization that has not yet played any role in resolving any conflict, including the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict, only extended condolences on the death of Azerbaijani journalists following the mine explosion... There is no word in her statement condemning Armenia,” Hafizoglu said.
He said that the international agencies’ indifference to the incident calms Armenia and makes it bolder.
“The statements made for the sake of the protocol are irrelevant for Armenia, where terrorism has been elevated to the rank of state policy,” Hafizoglu added.
Professor of Kyiv National University Taras Kuzio proposed to urgently raise, discuss and condemn at the United Nations and the Council of Europe and OSCE parliamentary assemblies Armenia’s refusal of its alleged commitment to human rights.
"The tragic deaths of two Azerbaijani journalists on June 4 would have been prevented if Armenia was more honest and cooperated over where it had planted mines in areas it occupied for nearly three decades which have made it the most mined region in the world," he added.
Israel-Azerbaijan International Association President Lev Spivak said that Armenia’s refusal to hand over the maps is a violation of all existing international norms.
"The war is over, a peace agreement has been signed, but people, namely civilians, continue to die...During the war, the death of any soldier is a terrible tragedy, the death of a civilian is a huge tragedy. This is the violation of all the norms and provisions adopted by the international community after World War II," he said.
He stressed the presence of such concepts as morality, humanity, decency while Armenia’s actions are simply immoral.
The head of the Israeli office of the Baku International Multiculturalism Centre and a well-known expert in the field of international relations, Arye Gut, also urged international pressure on Armenia.
"I call on my colleagues around the world to immediately put pressure on Armenia, which is obliged to provide minefield maps," Gut stressed.
He stressed that by ignoring repeated calls to provide maps of mined territories, Armenia deliberately refuses to transmit this information.
“The destruction scale in the liberated areas, mines planted everywhere, brutality, fascism, and vandalism of Armenians are appalling. The consequences of Armenian vandalism and hatred are clearly visible in the liberated territories," he added.
Armenia's refusal to provide maps of minefields could endanger the lives of many people, including journalists, the expert said.
He regretted that the international community is silent, showing complete indifference to what is happening.
“How many innocent civilians of Azerbaijan must die for this attitude to change? What are these people to blame?" Gut said.
A statement circulated on behalf of Global Journalism Council (GJC) President Mehmet Ali Dim said that Armenia’s known act contradicts all international conventions.
“We call on all international organizations, international human rights organizations, especially international journalistic organizations, not to remain indifferent to this bloody event, and strongly condemn this bloody act that led to the death of journalists. We call on Armenia to comply with the norms of international law,” the statement said.
Azerbaijani MP Sevil Mikayilova said that by refusing to provide maps of mined areas, Armenia targets civilians and journalists and seeks to limit the work of journalists. At the same time, Armenia is trying to make it difficult for civilians to return to their homes.
The MP said that human rights institutions and the global community do not put any pressure on Armenia over mine maps and that Azerbaijan’s appeals over this issue are not supported.
She noted that the countries and organizations that failed to put pressure on Armenia over mine maps, carry as much responsibility as Armenia over the death of the journalists.
She also urged the international media organizations and media institutions to step up pressure on Armenia after the incident.
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