President Ilham Aliyev said that the Armenian maps showing minefields’ locations in Azerbaijan’s Karabakh (Garabagh) region are only 25 percent accurate.
“Armenians planted hundreds of thousands of mines there,” the president said in an interview with CNN Turk TV channel, adding that since the end of the war, more than 150 civilians and servicemen have been killed or injured by landmines.
Demining works are currently underway in the liberated Azerbaijani territories, but the lack of maps complicates the process.
“Armenia won’t give us maps of minefields, and the accuracy of the maps provided at the latest stage is only 25 percent. So here, too, they are acting insincerely,” President Aliyev said on Saturday.
Earlier this year, Azerbaijan received the maps of the landmines planted by the Armenian forces in Aghdam, Fuzuli, and Zangilan districts over decades. The maps reportedly showed the coordinates of 97,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines planted in Aghdam. According to the other maps, there are 92,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel landmines in Fuzuli and Zangilan.
The Azerbaijani side handed over 30 Armenian servicemen – detained in Azerbaijani territory after a ceasefire agreement was signed in November 2020 – to Armenia in return for the maps.
In June, Armenia’s acting prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, said that only a small part of the existing minefield maps had been transferred to Azerbaijan. Officials in Baku are convinced that the maps hidden by Armenia could help neutralize at least one million landmines planted in the once occupied Azerbaijani lands.
Azerbaijan’s territories have been mined heavily during their nearly 30-year-long occupation by Armenia since the early 1990s. Armenia kicked off full-blown military aggression against Azerbaijan following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991. The bloody war until a ceasefire in 1994 saw Armenia occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, and one million others were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia.
On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict between the two countries spiraled after Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the counter-attack operations that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended in a tripartite statement signed on November 10 by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.
Shortly after the war, the Azerbaijani government started extensive mine-clearing operations. The Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) deployed its specialists and cutting-edge machinery of the Turkish, British, and Slovak production for the clearance activities.
Demining operations, however, face many challenges due to Armenia’s refusal to hand over the maps of the areas where the landmines are located. After the ceasefire, more than 150 Azerbaijani citizens were killed or injured by Armenian landmines in the liberated lands. On June 4, two journalists and a government official in Azerbaijan were trapped in a fatal mine explosion in the Kalbajar district.
ANAMA officials noted that the neutralization of unexploded ammunition, warheads, and missiles in the combat zones under current circumstances could take 5-6 years, while it is about 10-13 years for the mined areas.