Int’l community supports Azerbaijan’s mine clearance efforts in Karabakh [PHOTO]
By Vugar Khalilov
Representatives of the international community attending a conference in Baku on "Humanitarian mine action and sustainable development goals (SDGs)" have expressed their support for Azerbaijan's mine clearance efforts in Karabakh.
European Union (EU) has allocated €2.5 million for demining Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region liberated from Armenia’s 30-year occupation, EU ambassador to Azerbaijan Peter Michalko has said.
Michalko made the remarks at the abovementioned Baku-based conference jointly organized by the Azerbaijani Mine Action Agency (ANAMA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) on April 1.
He added that the EU provided €1.5 million for humanitarian demining purposes, as well as €500,000 through UNICEF.
"Mines are a terrible weapon and do not distinguish between the military and the civilian population. That's why 80 percent of mine victims are children. Demining is necessary for people, and these problems must be solved for the future of the population," Michalko stressed.
He underlined that the EU supports ANAMA in the field of mine clearance, as well as closely cooperates with the UNDP and shares its experience. There is cooperation between Azerbaijan and the European Union (EU) within the eco-program.
He emphasized that the EU supports ANAMA in the field of mine clearance, as well as closely collaborates with and shares its experience with the UNDP. Azerbaijan and the EU cooperate within the framework of the eco-program.
"In addition to de-mining, we must also prevent the installation of new mines. The EU will support Azerbaijan and the South Caucasus. The EU will provide expert support to Azerbaijan in the de-mining process," Michalko said.
In remarks at the opening of the event UNDP Chargé d'Affaires Sukhrob Khojimatov underlined that humanitarian demining activities are critical to sustainable development.
"In addition to saving lives and preventing injuries, demining is vital for infrastructure, education and agricultural reconstruction. It can also be a powerful impetus for the integration of women and people with disabilities in particular. At UNDP, we are committed to supporting the Government of Azerbaijan in creating a fertile ground for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” Khojimatov said.
It was noted that UNDP assisted in the establishment of the Azerbaijan Mine Action Agency (ANAMA) in 1999 and continues to support its work, which has included the clearance of over 806,000 mines and unexploded ordnance and the safe return of people to their homes.
UN Resident Coordinator in Azerbaijan Vladanka Andreeva stated that the problems of those affected by landmines must be addressed.
"We all want to return home, but if the environment is not cleared of mines, people will not feel at home. The threat of mines is very high. We must build a world free of mines and unite our efforts," Andreeva stressed.
She emphasized that the demining process is important for the safety of individuals and communities.
In his speech at the conference, Ambassador James Sharp stated that the UK is proud of its assistance to Azerbaijan in the mine clearance process.
“The UK is very proud to have promptly provided support to Azerbaijan in such a difficult and very important issue from a humanitarian point of view,” he said.
The desire of the Azerbaijani people to return home, according to the ambassador, is a top priority in this process. He stated that British mine clearance experts are cooperating with ANAMA to ensure the safe return of refugees to Karabakh.
“The British Ministry of Defence has also conducted mine clearance training to speed up the de-mining process,” Sharp stressed.
The ambassador highlighted that the deployment of new mines must be stopped in order to ensure regional peace. He stressed that the main goal should be focusing on the future.
"In order to ensure peace in the region, it is necessary to clear mines and not to place new mines," Sharp said.
The diplomat added that a number of British experts had expressed their support for ANAMA thanks to the UK assistance to the UNDP.
At the conference, ambassador Zacharie Gross also expressed France’s support for Azerbaijan’s demining activities in the liberated lands.
"Azerbaijan's strategy is important for joint work with the international community. France is happy to support Azerbaijan in mine clearing," Gross said.
Cambodia intends to assist in demining Azerbaijan’s liberated territories, Somaji Krak, director of the Cambodian National Mine Action Agency, said at the conference.
He stated that the Cambodian National Demining Agency, in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency, intends to assist Azerbaijan with mine clearance.
"We attach great importance to the exchange of experience. I think it can be useful for Azerbaijan," he said.
It should be noted that the conference, in a hybrid format, brings together key figures from the international community, mine operations operators, government agencies, and civil society to discuss the importance of humanitarian demining activities in mitigating mine threats to human life and normal living conditions.
The event will investigate the potential of humanitarian demining activities for long-term peace and socio-economic development, as well as the achievement of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the 16th Sustainable Development Goals, which aim to significantly reduce all forms of violence and related deaths globally.
In particular, the significance of demining in the restoration of Azerbaijan's liberated lands will be evaluated and information on the country's large-scale demining activity will be provided.