Biden Must Press Armenia to Hand Over Minefield Maps
Mines in Nagorno-Karabakh are killing civilians and troops
Months after Azerbaijan and Armenia signed an agreement that halted the recent 44-day war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenian leaders continue to condemn innocent civilians to death by refusing to share maps of the minefields in the recently liberated Azerbaijani territories.
Since November, more than 20 Azerbaijani civilians and servicemembers have been killed and 85 wounded by mine explosions in Nagorno-Karabakh, including booby traps buried by the retreating Armenian military.
Many of those killed were among the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons who are eager to return to their ancestral lands. Among them was Shakir Haciyev, who traveled with his daughter and brother to return to the village his family was forced to flee in the early 1990s. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has urged the hundreds of thousands of IDPs like the Haciyevs to be patient and wait for the liberated territories to be cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance. For some, the wait is too difficult to endure. On Nov. 28, the Haciyevs’ vehicle tragically struck an Armenian anti-tank mine while traveling near the ruins of their village, killing everyone inside.
Armenia refuses to solve this crisis diplomatically. For months, President Aliyev has pointed to Armenia’s refusal to release the maps despite the government’s obligation under international humanitarian law to disclose the information. Azerbaijan has also raised its concern at the United Nations and with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. In a Feb. 24 letter to the UN Secretary General, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov stated that Armenia’s lack of a response “seriously questions that country’s sincerity for a normalization of relations with Azerbaijan.” The Foreign Minister rightly notes that human costs inflicted by these mines constitutes a war crime. Recently, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs also emphasized the need to exchange data to ensure effective demining.
This article originally appeared in Defence One on 23 April 2021.