Azerbaijan's landmine issue discussed in British Parliament

An event was held in the British Parliament to raise awareness about the mine threat faced by Azerbaijan. The event, titled "Mine Action in Azerbaijan and Assistance to Mine Victims," was organised with the support of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Threats Group and the REVIVE non-governmental organisation, which promotes long-term support for mine victims, both active in the British Parliament, with the support of the Azerbaijan National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) and the Embassy of Azerbaijan in the United Kingdom, Azernews reports.

Representatives of the British Parliament, representatives of the British Foreign and Defence Ministries, British academics and experts, representatives of organisations dealing with mine clearance issues, and media representatives participated in the event. Samir Poladov, the Deputy Chairman of the ANAMA Board, made a presentation at the event. Ramil Azizov, a colleague from ANAMA, also participated in the event.

During the opening speech, Azerbaijan's ambassador to the United Kingdom, Elin Suleymanov, spoke about the 30 years of occupation by Armenia and even the period thereafter, emphasising the placing of mines and explosives by Armenia in Azerbaijani territories and the severe humanitarian consequences that ensued. Ambassador Suleymanov, noting that the demining of liberated areas is a crucial factor for achieving peace in the region, expressed gratitude to the British government for its financial and expert support in this direction.
Highlighting that mines pose a danger not only to human lives but also to the environment, the ambassador provided information about the steps Azerbaijan plans to take to address this aspect of the threat, including a side event planned within the framework of COP29 to be held in Baku this year. The ambassador referenced the creation of the first women demining groups in Azerbaijan through training sessions conducted in partnership with various international partners, including the Mine Advisory Group, in June of last year. He emphasised the significance of women's roles in all important issues on the country's agenda.

The President of the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Threats Group, and Member of the House of Commons, Matthew Offord, noted that despite the excessively serious and challenging nature of the mine issue, it is regrettable that international attention is not at the required level. M. Offord expressed pride in the work carried out by the Group under his leadership regarding the mine threat in Azerbaijan, expressing gratitude to Azerbaijan for cooperation. He highlighted that, in addition to the benefits for Azerbaijan, the acquired experience is crucial for its applicability in other geographical areas facing landmine threats. Offord emphasised that the Group's support for Azerbaijan is not merely a political approach but rather a humanitarian-oriented activity aimed at the well-being of the population and their future prosperity.

Later, the Deputy Chairman of the ANAMA Board, Samir Poladov, addressed the guests, presenting on the topic of "Mine Contamination and its Sustainable Development Impacts." In the presentation, information was provided about the scale of mine contamination faced by Azerbaijan, not only in military but also civilian objects, including cemeteries and water sources, being targeted by Armenia. Statistics on mine incidents and the areas where incidents occurred were also shared.

S. Poladov also spoke about the work conducted by ANAMA in the direction of demining and the equipment used. He highlighted ANAMA's efforts to raise awareness among the population about mine risks. S. Poladov pointed out that demining activities in Azerbaijan have been declared part of the 18th Sustainable Development Goal. At the end of the presentation, thanks were extended to countries and organisations that have supported Azerbaijan's demining activities to date. Emphasising the scale and challenging nature of the threat, international partners were urged to continue their support for demining efforts.

During the event, Nigel Marsh, an official from the British Ministry of Defence, spoke about the efforts of the institution in collaboration with ANAMA towards resolving mine contamination in liberated areas, and he discussed the training programs conducted by relevant British companies. He emphasized the importance of international conferences on mine clearance held in Azerbaijan for increasing awareness and attracting more partners in the fight against mine proliferation.

The representative of Mine Advisory Group - MAG, a non-governmental organisation operating in Britain, spoke about the projects implemented by the organization in Azerbaijan and its contributions to capacity building.
Alan Mathers, a representative of the non-governmental organisation "APOPO," which operates internationally and opened its branch in the United Kingdom in 2022, spoke about the unconventional methods – trained rats and dogs – used for the detection of mines, emphasising their cost-effectiveness and efficiency in obtaining results. He provided information about the collaborative projects conducted with ANAMA in Azerbaijan.

In his concluding remarks, Nigel Ellway, the leader of the REVIVE organisation, mentioned that he, along with the Chairman of the Parliamentary Group, Matthew Offord, had visited Azerbaijan several times over the past two years and had gained a close and firsthand understanding of the challenges posed by the mine threat. He also drew attention to the difficulties arising from the mine contamination of the liberated areas in Azerbaijan during the restoration of national and globally significant cultural monuments that were destroyed during the occupation. Highlighting that he had addressed this issue in an event on the humanitarian impact of mine threats at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London in December of last year, Ellway emphasised the importance of keeping this issue in focus.

The event concluded with a question-and-answer session.

Ulviyya Shahin, AzerNews

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