Until further maps are revealed, de-mining [of Azerbaijani lands liberated from Armenian occupation] will take place blind in seven further districts, Assistant to the President of Azerbaijan, Head of the Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmat Hajiyev wrote in an article to the Washington Times.
Hajiyev noted that in June, Armenia and Azerbaijan took what many must hope shall be our first step in our own detente.
“Azerbaijan handed over 15 Armenian detainees captured on its territory following the cessation of hostilities in November. In response, Armenia supplied maps of mines it had laid in Azerbaijan, which shall aid clearance operations to make territories safe once again for civilians. Both Armenia and Azerbaijan now know more of one another. Both are now safer,” he wrote.
He noted that with Armenia’s election on Sunday behind us, Azerbaijan stands ready to take the next strides to transfuse trust.
“We must build upon this diplomatic breakthrough and turn confrontation into collaboration. Because there is much work ahead of us,” Hajiyev said.
In his words, this can be shown no more starkly than in the case of the maps so far supplied — which detail the position of 97,000 mines.
“Yet this is in just one district of the liberated lands of Karabakh. Until further maps are revealed, de-mining will take place blind in seven further districts. Prime Minister Pashinyan himself admitted the maps shared are only a small fraction in Armenia’s possession,” he added.
How many more hundreds of thousands of mines there are remains unknown, Hajiyev said.
“Since Azerbaijanis have been able to step into these lands, stories of human tragedy are regularly reported in our domestic press. One hundred forty-four civilians — many Internally Displaced Persons eager to see what remains of their homes after 30 years in exile — have died since the ceasefire. Most recently, two journalists were killed when their truck hit an anti-tank mine planted by retreating Armenian forces. It is incidents like this that present the most difficult obstacle to peace. Despite the ceasefire agreement signed in Moscow in November, when hostilities were supposed to end, Azerbaijani civilians are still dying,” Hajiyev wrote.
Withholding the sole information that can prevent needless deaths in a time of peace thins the line between inaction and complicity, he added.
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