By Vugar Khalilov
Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov has described Armenia-planted land mines as an obstacle to the rehabilitation of Azerbaijani territories liberated from Armenia's occupation in 2020, local media reported on September 27.
He made the remarks at a joint news conference with his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Bayramov stressed that the soonest restoration of the liberated lands and the return of citizens to their homes are currently major tasks for Azerbaijan.
"This work is complicated by one problem – an extremely high number of mines on the liberated territories. Armenia refused to provide maps of minefields for eight months [since the end of the Second Karabakh War], claiming that they don’t exist,” Bayramov said.
“Eight months later, maps of minefields for three regions [Aghdam, Fuzuli and Zangilan] were submitted to Azerbaijan, according to which totally about 200,000 antipersonnel and anti-tank mines were planted in the districts. Maps of minefields in other liberated lands haven’t yet been provided,” he added.
Despite all these challenges a lot of work has been carried out in the liberated lands in less than a year, the minister underlined.
"In eight months, an international airport was built in Fuzuli, the first flights were carried out. At present, roads are being built in 13 directions, and power lines are being laid. The general plan of Aghdam has been approved, and work on it has already begun,” Bayramov stressed.
“Projects to create ‘smart villages’ are being implemented in a number of settlements. Azerbaijan aims to accelerate the restoration. We cooperate in this area with fraternal and friendly countries, including companies from Turkey," he added.
In turn, Cavusoglu said that Turkey wants Karabakh to be associated not with war, but with peace and development.
"September 27 is the Day of Remembrance martyrs of the Patriotic War of Azerbaijan, which resulted in Karabakh’s liberation. At today's meeting of the foreign ministers of the member countries of the Turkic Council, we paid tribute to the memory of our martyrs and from now on we want Karabakh to be associated not with war, but with peace and development," Cavusoglu said.
Commenting on the new cooperation opportunities, Cavusoglu added that Azerbaijan has offered a valuable proposal in this direction and Turkey wants it to be appreciated by all countries that will benefit from it.
“Presidents Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Ilham Aliyev have repeatedly stated that they want peace, prosperity, and tranquility in the region," Cavusoglu added.
At the press conference, it was also noted that a meeting of the foreign ministers of the Turkic Council member countries will be held in Azerbaijan.
Moreover, issues of preparation for the summit of the Turkic Council member countries were discussed with the participation of the foreign ministers and the summit is scheduled for November 12 in Istanbul.
Meanwhile, Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) rapporteur Paul Gavan for the "Humanitarian consequences of the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan" said that Armenia needs to hand over all the mine maps of Azerbaijani liberated lands in its possession.
Gavan made the remarks at the PACE autumn session.
He pointed out that the issue of the landmines is an important one, since the zone, which was under Armenia's occupation is one of the most mined in the world.
"The recent handover of the mine maps by Armenia is welcome, but I want to be very clear: Armenia needs to hand over all the maps in its possession,” Gavan said.
Over 160 Azerbaijanis have been killed or injured in the explosion of mines planted by Armenians in Azerbaijan’s formerly occupied regions since the end of the war in autumn 2020 that saw Azerbaijan liberate most of its territories in and around the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
On June 12, Azerbaijan handed over 15 Armenian prisoners in exchange for a map detailing the location of 97,000 mines in formerly-occupied Aghdam.
On July 3, Armenia submitted to Azerbaijan maps of about 92,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines planted during the occupation of Fuzuli and Zangilan regions.
In his interview to CNN Turk channel on August 14, President Ilham Aliyev said that the accuracy of the maps provided by Armenia at the latest stage is only 25 percent.
The scale of destruction in Azerbaijan’s formerly occupied territories suggests deep hatred and animosity against Azerbaijanis, with many experts describing these mass destructions as genocide.
Azerbaijan and Armenia resumed the second war after that latter started firing at Azerbaijani civilians and military positions starting September 27, 2020. The war 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 centers 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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