By Vafa Ismayilova
Baku has handed over back to Yerevan 15 Armenian detainees in exchange for Azerbaijan’s provision with maps of 97,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in liberated Aghdam region, the Foreign Ministry reported on June 12.
“According to the agreement reached, on June 12, 2021, in exchange for providing Azerbaijan with maps of 97,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in the Aghdam region, 15 detained Armenians were handed over to Armenia on the Azerbaijani-Georgian border with the participation of Georgian representatives,” the ministry said.
Azerbaijan highly evaluated the role of all international forces involved in the implementation of this humanitarian act.
“We appreciate the support of the Georgian government headed by Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili for the implementation of this humanitarian action. At the same time, we especially note the mediating role, first of all, of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker, European Council President Charles Michel and the Swedish chairmanship of the OSCE for their contribution to the process,” the report added.
The ministry said that obtaining mine maps will save the lives and health of tens of thousands of Azerbaijani citizens, including demining workers, and accelerate the reconstruction projects initiated by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Aghdam and the return of IDPs.
Over 140 Azerbaijan citizens have been killed or injured in mine explosions since November 10, 2020.
Armenia deliberately and constantly planted mines on Azerbaijani territories, in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention, thereby being a major threat to regional peace, security and cooperation.
Until the June 12 agreement, Yerevan refused to provide maps of hundreds of thousands of mines it had planted on the Azerbaijani territories over three decades of occupation.
Azerbaijan's Mine Action Agency defused 7,449 antipersonnel mines, 3,643 anti-tank mines, and 9,033 unexploded munitions from November 10, 2020, to May 31, 2021. In this period, the agency cleared 2,763.5 hectares of mines and unexploded ordnance.
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.
The war between Armenia and Azerbaijan ended on November 10 with the signing of a trilateral peace deal by the Azerbaijani, Russian and Armenian leaders.
The peace agreement stipulated the return of Azerbaijan's Armenian-occupied Kalbajar, Aghdam and Lachin regions. Before the signing of the deal, the Azerbaijani army had liberated around 300 villages, settlements, city centres and historic Shusha city. The Azerbaijani army declared a victory against the Armenian troops. The signed agreement obliged Armenia to withdraw its troops from the Azerbaijani lands that it has occupied since the early 1990s.
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