Wednesday May 25 2022

Azerbaijan’s regional peace-building efforts

4 April 2022 15:55 (UTC+04:00)
Azerbaijan’s regional peace-building efforts

By Vugar Khalilov

Azerbaijan's history has been replete with Armenian-committed atrocities against its innocent civilians over the last century. These atrocities culminated during the first Karabakh war (1988-1994) when Armenia's armed forces committed crimes against humanity and war crimes against innocent Azerbaijanis.

The planting of mines in Azerbaijan’s former occupied territories is one of the vivid examples of Armenia's long-lasting inhuman policy against its neighbor. The liberated lands of Azerbaijan, which were occupied by Armenia for 30 years, are now regarded as the world's most mine-littered territory.

Despite Armenia's hostile and destructive stance, Azerbaijan has consistently sought opportunities for regional peace-building initiatives.

The international conference on the theme "Humanitarian mine action and sustainable development goals (SDGs)," co-organized by the Azerbaijan Mine Action Agency (ANAMA) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Baku on March 31 – April 1, 2022, was another significant step forward for Azerbaijan in its efforts to promote regional peace.

The conference aimed to bring together key players from the international community, mine action operators, government agencies, and civil society to discuss the importance of humanitarian mine action in combating the threat of mines to people's lives and livelihoods.

Key factor for peace, prosperity

Azerbaijan sees the demining of its liberated territories as a key factor for regional peace and prosperity.

Speaking at the event, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Leyla Abdullayeva stressed that humanitarian mine action is vital for ensuring regional peace.

"Humanitarian demining is very important in terms of ensuring peace, stability and security in the region. As you know, Azerbaijan is carrying out large-scale restoration and reconstruction work in the liberated territories. It is important to clear the area of mines so that people can return to their native lands safely and with dignity," Abdullayeva underlined.

The Azerbaijani government has made demining a priority, allocating large sums of money to these activities in liberated areas, the spokesperson said.

The Azerbaijani government has prioritized demining, allocating large sums of money to these activities in liberated areas, the spokesperson said.

Moreover, Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmat Hajiyev emphasized that the Azerbaijani regions liberated from Armenian occupation in the second Karabakh war (2020) are the most mine-contaminated area in the world.

Hajiyev stated that Azerbaijan faces critical issues such as the restoration and reconstruction of liberated territories, as well as the return of internally displaced persons. The threat of mines is one of the most significant obstacles in this regard, and Azerbaijan hopes for serious international support in eliminating this threat.

Hajiyev described as accurate only 25 percent of minefield maps provided by Armenia.

"They planted mines instead of trees in our territories. Both soldiers and civilians were killed and injured in the blasts. Unfortunately, only 25 percent of the mine maps provided by Armenia were useful," Hajiyev stressed.

Earlier it was reported that Armenia submitted to Azerbaijan all mine maps of liberated territories as a result of talks held through the Russian Defence Ministry's mediation on December 4, 2021.

In his remarks at the event, ANAMA Chairman Vugar Suleymanov stated that since November 10, 2020, over 25,000 hectares of land have been cleared of mines, and over 55,000 mines and unexploded ordnance have been discovered and neutralized on the liberated territories.

Suleymanov stated that Azerbaijan's Karabakh region ranks first in the world for mine pollution and that due to the magnitude of the problem, the Azerbaijani government prioritizes demining of the liberated territories.

The conference centered on the impact of humanitarian mining action on long-term peace and socio-economic development, as well as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, specifically SDG 16, which aims to "significantly reduce all forms of violence and related death rates everywhere".

Conference conclusions

The international conference participants agreed on a number of future steps to be taken as part of humanitarian mine action.

They emphasized the importance of transferring extensive multicultural and interdisciplinary demining expertise, which will be extremely valuable to Azerbaijan in carrying out large-scale rehabilitation and construction work in conflict-affected areas.

“The participants recognize that the multi-lateral and interdisciplinary approach promoted by the conference can lead to new opportunities for peace-building, sustainable development and international cooperation on humanitarian mine action,” the concluding remarks of the event underlined.

The importance of international demining collaboration, as well as the formation of future mine action forums and technical working groups to address critical concerns, was emphasized. Participants stressed that humanitarian mining action cannot be sustained without multi-level cooperation.

“The participants recognize the need for sustainable support structures and financing, as well as the necessity of moving away from one-off project financing to built-in mechanisms to ensure timely and continuous funding for a humanitarian mine action programme in Azerbaijan,” the statement said.

The conference papers, as well as a summary of discussions, challenges and opportunities identified, and recommendations for future action, were decided to be published in order to inform a broader audience about the sector's progress and raise awareness about the importance of continued investment in humanitarian mine action programs.

The conference underscored the significance of boosting humanitarian demining assistance to Azerbaijan to support ongoing rebuilding and rehabilitation efforts in conflict-affected areas, which is crucial for sustainable development and the preservation of lives.

“The participants acknowledge that capacity-building and capacity exchange on humanitarian mine action is a continuing process, based on trust and enduring relationships that require a long-term commitment,” the concluding paper stressed.

The annual conference in Azerbaijan is regarded as a cornerstone for the continuing exchange of practical experience and lessons learned in the field of humanitarian mine action.

International support

International organizations and participating countries expressed their support for Azerbaijan's regional demining and peace-building initiatives.

The European Union (EU) ambassador to Azerbaijan, Peter Michalko, as well as the British and French ambassadors, James Sharp and Zacharie Gross, emphasized Azerbaijan's financial and professional assistance in this area.

UN officials Sukhrob Khojimatov and Vladanka Andreeva emphasized the humanitarian aspects of demining, emphasizing the importance of demining for long-term development and regional peace.

Furthermore, countries such as Japan, Cambodia, and Italy have expressed their willingness to assist Azerbaijan with future demining efforts.

Memorandums of understanding were signed between the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) and a number of foreign organizations as part of the conference on "Humanitarian mine action and sustainable development goals (SDGs)".

ANAMA, in collaboration with partner countries, conducts demining operations on Azerbaijan's liberated territories. The State Border Service and the Defence Ministry also demine the liberated lands.

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.

Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a Russia-brokered ceasefire agreement on November 10, 2020, to end 44 days of fighting and work toward a comprehensive resolution.


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