Armenia’s refusal to hand over accurate maps of landmines is killing Azerbaijanis (ANALYTICS)
by Vasif Huseynov
Up to 260 Azerbaijani residents have been killed or wounded in the landmine explosions in the liberated territories since the end of the 44-day war. Despite all the international calls and extensive efforts of the Azerbaijani government, Armenia refuses to provide accurate maps of the landmines’ locations. “The deliberate and continued planting of landmines by Armenia in Azerbaijan’s territories must be addressed and condemned!” tweeted Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Jeyhun Bayramov following a recent mine explosion that severely injured two Azerbaijani civilians. According to him, the number of victims in the last 30 years stands at 3,336, including 38 women and 357 kids.
Azerbaijani agencies with some international support continue the operations to detect and defuse these explosive materials in the vast territories of the liberated Karabakh and Eastern Zangazur regions. According to the official data made public in August 2022, specialists of the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) found and defused 2,353 anti-personnel, 689 anti-tank mines and 1,161 unexploded ordnances. The size of the territories contaminated with landmines is, however, extensive and the process would take long years unless the specialists have access to accurate maps.
Azerbaijan has, in fact, succeeded to obtain some of the minefield maps from Armenia in the course of the peace talks following the war. These maps were supposed to help identify the coordinates of a total of 189,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines. However, Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev said the accuracy of these maps did not exceed 25 percent. According to the official estimations of the Azerbaijani government, the maps that Armenia has refused to disclose could help neutralize at least one million landmines planted in the once occupied Azerbaijani lands.
While accusing Azerbaijan of refusing to cooperate in humanitarian issues, the Armenian government rejects Azerbaijan’s calls to hand over the remaining maps. Nor do the international actors, like the United States and some European countries, who react quickly to Armenia’s needs and concerns, have not put enough pressure on Yerevan to cooperate in this critically important humanitarian issue that costs the lives of innocent Azerbaijanis.
The existence of landmines constitutes a challenge also in the reconstruction and rehabilitation of the liberated territories and as such delays the return of more than 700,000 Azerbaijanis to their homelands. These lethal weapons have been laid often in civilian infrastructure, lampposts, canals, road junctions, courtyard entrances, cemeteries, riverbanks, and rural and urban paths to amplify the number of victims. “Sometimes more than 10 mines per square meter are found in the mined areas”, according to Azerbaijan Mine Action Agency (ANAMA).
The clearance of the region from these explosive materials is extremely time-consuming and expensive and the process gets further complicated as there are no accurate maps that help the cleaning operations. Armenia’s refusal to cooperate in this process is a flagrant violation of international law and the Geneva Conventions of 1949. Yerevan opts to disregard the international law and even it was reported that Armenian saboteur groups that infiltrated the Azerbaijani territories following the 44-day war planted more mines in the bordering region.
In parallel, Armenian leaders seek to draw more international pressure against Azerbaijan to release the Armenian military servicemen detained by Azerbaijan after the 44-day war. Azerbaijan, demonstrating its goodwill to the post-conflict peace process, has already released most of the Armenian detainees with the latest such an episode took place recently when Baku returned 17 Armenian detainees. However, Armenia has not reciprocated to these humanitarian gestures and, in a way detriment to the regional peace and security, continues to refuse to cooperate in this process.
Vasif Huseynov, head of department at the Baku-based Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), especially for News.Az