By Vafa İsmayilova
A group of European MPs have stated that Armenia and Azerbaijan need to exchange information for successful demining in Karabakh, Trend reported on June 9.
Members of the European Parliament's delegation for relations with the South Caucasus made the remarks in a joint statement. The statement on the dire human cost of landmines in Azerbaijan was made by MEP Marina Kaljurand, European Parliament Standing Rapporteur on Armenia, MEP Andrey Kovatchev, and European Parliament's Standing Rapporteur on Azerbaijan, MEP Željana Zovko.
“We are saddened by the death of three Azerbaijani civilians, including two journalists, and the injury of four other persons, in an explosion of a landmine in Kalbajar region on 4 June. These are unfortunately only the latest victims of the scourge of landmines in the context of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. We express our deep condolences to the families of the victims and hope for the full recovery of those injured," the statement said.
It stressed that "both sides need to commit to cooperation and the exchange of available information in order to proceed with effective demining and prevent further tragedies in the future".
The statement underlined that landmines are inherently indiscriminate weapons, unable to distinguish between civilian and military targets.
Meanwhile, head of the EU Delegation to Azerbaijan Kestutis Jankauskas said that the EU has an expert from ECHO (European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations), European Commission's humanitarian branch, who is looking to provide support to Azerbaijan in demining its territories liberated from the Armenian occupation.
Commenting on the recent killing of two Azerbaijani journalists in an Armenian-planted mine explosion, he expressed condolences to the families and friends of the deceased.
Jankauskas noted that the EU, which is closely watching the news, can unfortunately see a rise in the number of mine blast casualties.
“Situation there is very heavy. There are a lot of mines. It is really very sad. We do raise the issues of mine maps and the EU has issued numerous statements about this, encouraging every step from all sides that could build more trust and confidence [in the region]. And handing over mine maps would be one of them. Not the only, but one of them and a very important one. But I am afraid that it will not solve all the problems,” he said.
The EU official added that it will be difficult to expect that there will be a map of every single mine.
“You need to be very careful, you need to spend time and attention on demining. I know that our UNDP colleagues are also advising and helping. We have the coordination group in support of that. And recently EU has concluded a contract for mine awareness raising,” he said.
Jankauskas said that the EU had published a call for proposal for 10 more million euros and part of that is intended for assisting the humanitarian demining operations.
"So this is an ongoing process which we fully support, but first of all, we encourage people to be very careful, to spend time on demining and then, of course, anything that could be done,” he said.
Jankauskas added that along with the mine maps, any other steps from both sides, such as the work on the border delimitation would be very helpful as they build confidence.
“And I think both sides need that confidence for long-lasting peace. The death of any journalist or any other civilian personnel, [even] one death is too much, so none of that should happen. We do put this in our statements, we do raise that in our conversations with the Armenian authorities,” he added.
Earlier, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry issued a statement, urging the international community not to turn a blind eye to Armenia’s policy to deliberately plant mines in Azerbaijani lands. The ministry said that Armenia in violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention, deliberately and constantly plants mines on Azerbaijani territories, thereby being the major threat to regional peace, security, and cooperation.
It added that Yerevan bears all the responsibilities for the civilian Azerbaijanis becoming the victims of mines while performing their duties.
Armenia continues to refuse to provide maps of hundreds of thousands of mines it had planted on the Azerbaijani territories over three decades of occupation. Azerbaijan has made numerous appeals to international organizations and lodged an intergovernmental complaint to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over Armenia's refusal to provide maps of mines in the formerly occupied territories.
President Ilham Aliyev on April 20 said that Armenia’s refusal to provide mine maps amounts to another war crime committed by Yerevan. He also said that demining of the newly-liberated territories will be the first stage in the process to return Azerbaijani IDPs to their homes.
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