By Vugar Khalilov
Azerbaijan's Mine Action Agency found and defused 48,411 mines and munitions from November 10, 2020, to October 15, 2021, on territories liberated from Armenia's occupation in last year's war.
"In the liberated territories, 22,230 unexploded munitions, 17,426 antipersonnel, and 8,755 anti-tank mines were found and neutralized. Mine clearance there is ongoing," the chairman of the agency's board, Vugar Suleymanov, said in an interview with Turkey's Anadolu news agency.
He added that more than 18 hectares of liberated lands had been demined over the said period.
"From November 10, 2020, when the Second Karabakh War ended, to October 15, 2021, 18,302 hectares were cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance," Suleymanov said.
He noted that the agency continues activities to clear mines planted in Karabakh and surrounding areas by Armenian armed forces over the 30-year occupation.
Suleymanov underlined that the mine clearance activities are primarily being carried out in the lands intended for highways, railways, facilities, and residential areas.
Furthermore, Suleymanov said that Azerbaijan will expand its cooperation with Turkey in the mine clearance sphere.
The agency constantly discusses demining issues with the Turkish ministries specializing in mine clearance, he added.
"The contamination of territories with mines contradicts the basic norms and principles of international law, including the Geneva Convention of 1949. As a result of the explosion of mines placed by Armenia during the occupation, after the end of hostilities in November 2020, 33 citizens of Azerbaijan, including seven soldiers and 26 civilians have died, 139 people were seriously injured," Suleymanov said.
He added that the agency had increased the number of de-mining units and has provided necessary training for them.
It should be noted that Azerbaijan’s Mine Action Agency, along with the partner countries, carries out demining activities on its liberated territories.
Some 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 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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