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Baku hosts “Team Europe Initiative on Mine Action in Azerbaijan” event

04 May 2024 [09:00] - TODAY.AZ

Baku hosted an event themed “Team Europe Initiative on Mine Action in Azerbaijan” on Friday.

In his opening remarks, Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to Azerbaijan Peter Michalko noted the EU sparing no efforts in collaborating with Azerbaijan across various domains, including the mine threat issue.

Addressing the event, Assistant to the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Head of Foreign Policy Affairs Department of the Presidential Administration Hikmet Hajiyev said: “The Republic of Azerbaijan faces a significant challenge due to landmine and explosive remnants of war (ERW) contamination, resulting from nearly three decades of military occupation by Armenia. Azerbaijan ranks among the most heavily mine-contaminated countries globally, with an estimated 1.5 million landmines and an unknown number of ERWs contaminating around 12% of the nation’s territory. This poses severe risks to civilians and hinders socio-economic development.

From the end of the war in 2020 until April 27, 2024, there have been 212 landmine explosion incidents, resulting in 356 victims, including women and children. These incidents underscore the urgent need for mine clearance and victim assistance. Over the last 30 years, the cumulative toll of landmine victims in Azerbaijan has reached 3,435.

Armenia’s refusal to provide accurate maps of the landmines it planted on Azerbaijani territory complicates demining efforts and obstructs the return of 800,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their homes.”

“Given the immense adverse humanitarian impact, and considering that lingering landmine contamination represents a challenge to achieving peace and reconciliation, Azerbaijan relies on adequate political and practical support from the international community for its demining efforts as a matter of human solidarity.

Given Azerbaijan's relatively developed institutional capacity and training frameworks, the most critical form of assistance needed at this juncture is direct financial donations to amplify the scope of operations,” Hikmet Hajiyev noted.

“Other priorities include mine victim assistance, technical surveys and feasibility studies, data management, technological advancements, implementing geospatial methodologies, technology layering to refine clearance needs, support for female demining teams, mechanical demining enhancement, mine detection dog (MDD) training, demarcation, fencing, and explosive ordnance risk education (EORE),” the Assistant to the President emphasized.

Highlighting Azerbaijan’s International Initiatives to Raise Awareness and Foster Cooperation on Mine Action, Hikmet Hajiyev stated: “Internationally, Azerbaijan’s efforts extend beyond seeking foreign assistance for its landmine issue to raising awareness and fostering international cooperation and solidarity. Azerbaijan has spearheaded the following initiatives:

- Hosting annual international mine action conferences in Azerbaijan. Jointly organized with UNDP, these conferences have become the key venue for political dialogue on mine action. The next conference is scheduled for May 30-31, 2024, in Zangelan and Baku, focusing on the environmental impact of landmines—a topic aligned with our presidency of COP29. We look forward to high-level participation from the EU and its member states.

- Initiating the NAM Contact Group on Humanitarian Demining. Upon recommendation by President Ilham Aliyev, the NAM adopted a decision last year to establish this contact group, which commenced its activities in September.

- Highlighting the adverse impact of landmines on cultural heritage. Azerbaijan is a strong advocate for the protection of cultural heritage during armed conflicts. In 2016, Azerbaijan sponsored a UNESCO military manual on protecting cultural property. Last year, UNESCO adopted a landmark resolution on the impact of landmines on cultural heritage. As a direct follow-up to this resolution, a special conference is now being held in Aghdam dedicated to this topic.

-Together with the UN, Azerbaijan is establishing a UNDP-ANAMA Center of Excellence for mine action training. Azerbaijan is already aiding other nations with similar problems by sharing its experience and know-how. The establishment of this center will significantly augment the training assistance capacity of ANAMA. Any support from our international partners, including the EU, for the establishment and activity of this center will have a multiplying effect.

- Azerbaijan adopted a national SDG on mine action and initiated the adoption of a global SDG within the UN,” Hikmet Hajiyev mentioned.

“Regarding today's main theme, as His Excellency President Ilham Aliyev noted a few days ago, mine action could become one of the most important pillars of Azerbaijan-EU cooperation. In this context, we appreciate the announcement of the “Team Europe Initiative to support Azerbaijan’s mine action efforts” as a practical follow-up to the high-level political dialogue. This mechanism is intended as a framework to coordinate and mobilize assistance from the EU and its member states. Indeed, such an initiative is long overdue.

We look forward to learning more details about this initiative, most notably its financial parameters. We hope the level of funding will be commensurate with the size of the problem we are facing. Moreover, we expect that identifying priorities for practical projects within the Team Europe Initiative will be based on host country ownership. What we need is actual demining. As President Ilham Aliyev said: “If you don't want to give the money to us directly, you could give it to a company that will come and demine if you wish to help.

The EU has a unique chance to support peace and development in the region. We hope that launching this Team Europe Initiative will be the first step in ensuring an even-handed approach in EU’s assistance policy toward the region and in upholding the objective needs of Azerbaijan, as the only side which suffered hugely from the former conflict,” the Presidential Assistant added.

Other speakers at the event included Gert Jan Koopman, Director-General for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations of the European Commission and Vugar Suleymanov, Chairman of the Board of Azerbaijan’s Mine Action Agency (ANAMA).

Following the screening of a video on landmine threat, Peter Michalko briefed the participants about the Team Europe Initiative on Mine Action.


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