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Israeli media highlights landmine issues in Azerbaijan

24 July 2023 11:41 (UTC+04:00)
Israeli media highlights landmine issues in Azerbaijan

Israeli journalist and the CEO of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy Rachel Avraham has published an article about the landmine problems of Azerbaijan in Israeli media to draw the world’s attention to the issue.

Azernews presents the article:

Recently, I was in the war-torn Karabakh region and witnessed how ANAMA, the national landmine agency of Azerbaijan, worked to clear landmines during the Second International Conference on Mine Action. I witnessed how any person who merely walked across a green area could easily fall victim to a landmine, which only special machines could detect. This is why landmines are so deadly, as they can kill and maim any person, including a child who just wanted to play soccer, just for walking by. This is why planting landmines, especially if they are not clearly marked, is a gross violation of human rights.

In recent days, an Azerbaijani civilian engaging in beekeeping was injured in a mine explosion in the Kalbajar region. This civilian was only the latest victim. Emil Hasanov, Deputy Chairman of the Public Council under ANAMA, added: "303 people since November 2020 have been killed by landmines in Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan has more than one million landmines. Since Azerbaijan's population is 10 million, this means that there is a landmine for every 10 people in Azerbaijan. Landmines also cause grave environmental damage. Having landmines in the ground for an extended period of time causes certain chemical reactions." He blamed the Russian PeaceKeepers for this, as they often turn a blind eye to the Armenians planting landmines in the area.

In a recent statement, the Azerbaijani Diaspora organizations proclaimed, "The mines and unexploded ammunition planted by Armenia in the territories of Azerbaijan continue to pose a serious threat to the lives of civilians. The planting of mines in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan and the failure to provide accurate maps of mined areas are a clear demonstration of Armenia's disrespect for the norms and principles of international law and international humanitarian law." Due to this grave incident targeting a civilian in Kalbajar, the Commissioner for Human Rights of Azerbaijan Sabina Aliyeva prepared a special report on Armenia's landmine terror against Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani journalist and lawyer Orkhan Amashov declared, "Landmines and explosive remnants of war remain a significant problem for Azerbaijan. It is not just that Armenia refused to provide minefield maps, but also engaged in transferring mines via the Lachin Road to the part of Karabakh under the temporary control of the Russian 'peacekeeping contingent" after the 10 November 2020 tripartite statement. Maps received from Armenia, to date, only cover 5% of the liberated territories, with the accuracy level of the maps being no more than 25%."

"The extent of the problem is massive: an area with a space of 7000 km2 is uninhabitable due to over a million mines remaining emplaced," he noted. "The next effect of this is manifold. It has ecological implications. Azerbaijan has so far managed to clear 74,644 hectares of land from mines - this is only 9.06 percent of the full extent of the contaminated territories. Large swathes of the de-occupied territories are uncultivable. Due to heavy degradation, it will take some considerable time to bring life to those areas after the demining efforts achieve some tangible results. There is a long journey."

Amashov noted how due to the "lack of accurate maps, there is a human cost, both in terms of accidental civilian casualties and the predicament of deminers operating in dangerous areas. Presently, the demining capacity of ANAMA (Azerbaijani National Agency for Mine Action) is being augmented, but the task is gargantuan. Azerbaijan hopes that the cooperation with Israel, the UK, the EU, and other partners, will give a new impetus to demining efforts. However, whatever resources could be employed, without Armenia providing accurate minefield maps, the process will be long, arduous, and costly in many respects."

Roy Nahari, the CEO of Open Minded Solutions Ltd., an Israeli anti-mine company, noted that the natural environment in Karabakh makes the issue worse, even if the Armenians provided all of the landmine maps: "Landmines in mountain areas are at a very big risk of going with the stream or melted snow or water washed away to the streams and rivers because of the power of the water in those areas. This makes the problem bigger and very dangerous because you do not know where the mines went. The area where the mines are spread is huge. This makes it hard to determine where they are and in what distance they can go. This is the main problem with mine pollution."

DSC Kingsley Chike Ahukanna, the head of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Section CBRNE Unit at the Nigeria Security and Civil Defense Corp, who also partook in the Second International Conference on Mine Action that was held recently in Azerbaijan, stressed: "Landmines continue to pose a lethal threat to peace, security, and development everywhere in the world and Azerbaijan is not the exemption. 147,988 hectares of land in Azerbaijan are still classified as highly contaminated, while 675,570 hectares are considered medium and low threat areas." He believes that the International Conference on Mine Action helped to create a community of committed professionals, dedicated to eradicating landmines worldwide.

However, despite the international community's dedication to eradicating landmines, this does not stop Armenia from continuing to plant landmines in the region, even though they are supposed to be negotiating a peace agreement with Azerbaijan. Nurit Greenger, the founder of the US-Azerbaijan Cultural Foundation, who partook in environmental protests in the war-torn Karabakh region last December, concurred with Nahari about the mine pollution being one of the gravest issues in Karabakh: "Yes, they dump the ecological exploitation into the rivers. That is eco-genocide. One of the largest perpetrators is a Canadian company. I think that Azerbaijan should simply go into the areas controlled by the Russian peacekeepers and put a stop to it."


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