Why is Azerbaijan's landmine problem not discussed at the international level? - INTERVIEW with UN representative

Interviews 16:15 17.04.2024

The number of victims of landmine terrorism in Azerbaijan is increasing day by day. During the 30-year occupation, more than 1.5 million landmines were buried by the armed forces of Armenia in our historical lands. The statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs states that during the three years after the Second Karabakh War, Armenian separatists planted 500,000 mines in Karabakh. As a result of the mine threat continued by Armenia, a total of 350 Azerbaijani people became mine victims. Among them, 50 civilians and 15 military personnel, 65 people died.

Humanitarian demining is one of the main priorities of Azerbaijan's state policy, and today more than 90 percent of our demining activities are carried out at the expense of the country's internal resources. We regret to note that despite being one of the countries most affected by mines, the condemnation of Armenia's mine threat, the presentation of accurate mine maps by this country to the Azerbaijani side, as well as the support of the international community in the direction of eliminating the mine threat is not encouraging. Suffice it to say that on April 4 - International Mine Awareness and Assistance Day for Mine Action, although calls were made by international organizations and organizations directly engaged in demining activities around the world regarding the situation in various countries, no message was shared about the situation in Azerbaijan.

Lee Woodyear, a specialist in the public relations department of the United Nations (UN) Mine Action Service (UNMAS), told the US Bureau of "Report" that UNMAS, through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), conducted an assessment in mined areas after the conflict. recommended that his government support efforts to combat landmines. L. Woodyear noted that in the near future, UNMAS has no plans to resume demining activities in Azerbaijan: "We believe that UNDP, the relevant UN agency, supports the process. Although we do not have detailed information about the efforts of the Azerbaijani government regarding demining operations, the work We know it's going well."

 
There is almost no information about UNDP's activities in the region in the foreign media. But I wonder why the attitude of the UN to a country that suffers from landmines after Ukraine the most in the world today is not satisfactory?

We addressed questions to UNDP officials on the subject. Alessandra Roccasalvo, the acting resident representative of the Development Program in Azerbaijan, received an answer to our request after a few weeks. This can be considered a clear indication of the approach to the existing problem.

We present the full interview:

- Azerbaijan is currently facing an ecological crisis due to the mines buried in the region during the 30-year occupation of Armenia. Unfortunately, as a result of the explosion of landmines left by Armenia, a large number of civilians, including military personnel, almost often die in those areas. Even two of our colleagues died as a result of a mine explosion while performing their journalistic activities in Karabakh. What can you say about the activities carried out by UNDP and currently being continued to clear the areas from mines?

- Mine/explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination of reclaimed areas in the Karabakh region has significantly exacerbated this problem in the region. UNDP continues to support the Mine Action Agency of The Republic of Azerbaijan (ANAMA) in developing its institutional and operational capacity, as well as providing programmatic, technical and resource mobilization support. Support includes a risk education campaign, 120,000 explosive risk education brochures, the training and recruitment of the country's first female deminers, the demining of 100,000 hectares, and the involvement of 176,000 people in mine action programs.

 
- I am a journalist working at the UN and I closely follow the organization's activities. I regret to mention that although the officials of the organization and also the spokesperson of the UN Secretary-General make frequent statements about the situation in different countries, including mine problems in Ukraine, in daily press conferences, we cannot see this regarding Azerbaijan. Although, Azerbaijan is currently the most polluted country with mines after Ukraine. Why does your organization not make any official statement condemning this war crime and why do you not inform the international media about the activities of UNDP's demining efforts?

- Our goal is to build a world free from the threat of mines and unexploded ordnance, and we recommend that all states accede to and adhere to the Mine Ban Convention.

- Armenia refuses to share the maps of the mines buried in the liberated regions of Azerbaijan, and according to official information, it is estimated that it will take at least 10 years to clear Karabakh of mines. Has UNDP tried to contact the Armenian side to get accurate maps?

- In post-conflict situations, concerned parties should share available information, including maps, with the other party to facilitate demining, prevent further casualties and injuries, and ensure that life returns to normal. The lack of detailed information about the places where the mines were buried is the main obstacle to the safe return of thousands of IDPs in the Karabakh region.

- What are your plans regarding demining in the region? The local media reported that UNDP will prepare maps that ensure quick detection of mines and help in purchasing special equipment for this purpose. How will these maps be prepared and when will they be ready?

- UNDP continues to support the Government of Azerbaijan and ANAMA to develop the most appropriate and cost-effective methods for demining land, increasing demining capabilities using artificial intelligence and visual imagery, including improvements to manual, mechanical means and demining dogs.

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