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Country Reports
AZERBAIJAN, Landmine Monitor Report 1999



Armenia and Azerbaijan engaged in conflict over the Nagorny-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan from 1988 to 1994. Nagorny-Karabakh is an autonomous region of western Azerbaijan but the majority of the inhabitants are Armenian. As a result of the conflict, western Azerbaijan is plagued with landmines. On 12 May 1994 Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a cease-fire agreement; however, negotiations for a final peace agreement are still going on under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Landmines and demining are reportedly on the agenda of the peace negotiations, but no final language has been made publicly available.[1]

According to the UN, mine are still being used.[2] Continuing tensions prevent mine action programs in many areas.

Mine Ban Policy

Azerbaijan has not signed the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty. It attended the treaty preparatory meetings, but did not endorse the pro-ban treaty Brussels Declaration in June 1997. It did not participate, even as an observer, in the treaty negotiations in Oslo, nor did it attend the treaty signing in Ottawa in December 1997.

Azerbaijan voted in favor of the 1996 UN General Assembly resolution urging states to pursue vigorously an international agreement banning antipersonnel landmines. But, it was one of the few states that abstained on voting on the 1997 and 1998 UNGA resolutions in support of the Mine Ban Treaty.

One of the opposition parties, Vahdat (“Unity”), has declared that Azerbaijan should sign the Ottawa Convention.[3] This declaration came in the wake of a project by the Azeri Institute of Peace and Democracy together with the Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines (ACBL) called “Create Public Opinion in Azerbaijan against Landmine Use.”

Azerbaijan has not signed the 1980 Convention on Conventional Weapons or its Landmine Protocol. According to the UN, Azerbaijan has expressed more interest in discussing the landmine issue in the Conference on Disarmament, although it is not a member.[4]

Production, Transfer, and Stockpiling

Azerbaijan is not believed to be a landmine producer or exporter. When the Soviet army left Azerbaijan in 1992, it left landmines and other weapons behind. It is believed that this is where Azerbaijan obtained its stockpiles. The number of mines in Azerbaijan’s stockpiles is unknown.


Landmines have been used throughout the Nagorny-Karabakh conflict. The UN indicates that mines continue to be used although data as to their exact location is difficult to obtain.[5] Both Armenian and Azeri armed forces laid mines in the standard Soviet pattern, but records were not kept of their whereabouts, and infested areas were not fenced.[6]

The majority of the mines used were of Soviet origin, although Italian mines were also used. The most commonly found antipersonnel mines include the Soviet OZM-72 and PMN-2, as well as the Soviet MON-50, MON-90, and PMN, and the Italian TS-50.[7]

While the bulk of the Azerbaijan’s landmine problem lies in Nagorny-Karabakh, mines were also used outside the territory of Nagorny-Karabakh. The most well-known incidents occurred from 1989 to 1994 in which mines were used on the railway from Rostov-Baku, on the road from Tbilisi-Baku, on a ferry from Krasnovodsk-Baku and in the Baku underground.[8]

Landmine Problem

Estimates of the numbers of mines found in Azerbaijan and Nagorny-Karabakh vary. According to the UN and the U.S. State Department, Nagorny-Karabakh has an estimated 100,000 landmines on its territory.[9] After its assessment mission, the United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) concluded that the landmine problem was not nearly as bad as original estimates portrayed, although it did acknowledge that landmines posed a serious threat to civilians in certain regions of Nagorny-Karabakh.[10] There are no landmines on Azerbaijan’s borders with Russia, Iran, or Georgia.

In the beginning of 1998 an international company, BACTEC International, was contracted to undertake a Level 1 Mine Survey in the Fizuli region. Accordingly, a partial Survey was conducted from mid-May to September 1998, surveying 260 of the 700 square kilometers potentially mined in the Fizuli region. A total of 3.2 sq. km. of suspected contaminated areas was marked in the process. Additionally, seventeen individual sites were surveyed in the Agdam region.[11]

The Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines examined the problems of landmine use in the Fizuli and Agdam regions. According to the ACBL, in Fizuli it appears that sixteen villages remain heavily mined. About 3,000 hectares (almost 17 % of the arable lands of Fizuli district) are mined, concentrated around the sixteen villages.[12] In February 1994 more than 280 mines were found and destroyed in one field near the village of Ashaghy Kurdmahmudlu.[13] In the region of Agdam, the ACBL found that about 2,000 hectares (around 11 % of the arable lands of the Agdam district) are mined.[14]

Mine Clearance

The national Agency for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Areas (ARRA), was created at the beginning of 1997. ARRA declared in April 1998 that it would cost $5.2 million to demine twenty-two villages of the Fizuli region, and another $70,000 to clear areas in Gazakh district on the border with Armenia and Georgia.[15] Thus far, Norway has committed $134,000 for a survey of the mine situation.[16]

On 18 July 1998 the civilian Azerbaijan National Agency for Demining (ANAD) was established. It is now responsible for mine clearance, not the Ministry of Defense. The main purpose of the ANAD is to conceive and coordinate an integrated mine action program for Azerbaijan. The government has earmarked $600,000 for the agency, but it has yet to begin operations.[17] The proposed objectives for the ANAD are: collection of information on minefields, planning, establish standards and regulations for mine clearance (based on the international standards), specialist training (international experts for an initial period), mine clearance, management and control, reporting, victim support, and resource mobilization.[18]

After the cease-fire in 1994 the Azerbaijan Army’s Military Engineers started mine clearance operations, dealing first with the Fizuli and Agdam districts in Nagorny-Karabakh. The Army was poorly equipped with old Russian mine detectors. Despite these obstacles, the Azeri Army removed almost 19,000 antitank mines and almost 22,000 antipersonnel mines from fifteen minefields.[19] Most of these were lifted from the Fizuli Region between 1994 and 1997 and taken away for demolition or storage. Some of them were re-laid.[20]

The British firm Halo Trust began a mine clearance project in the region in 1995, which lasted for fifteen months. During the first three months of Halo Trust’s operation, there were over thirty civilian casualties due to landmines and other unexploded ordnance.[21] Halo Trust trained former members of the Nagorny-Karabakh army in humanitarian mine clearance and now demining continues under the auspices of the local deminers.[22]

The Prime Minister of Nagorny-Karabakh stated in December 1998 that more than 2,000 hectares of land had been cleared of landmines in Martakert, Askeran, and Hadrut and that he believed demining operations in those areas would finish by the spring of 1999.[23] However, the UNMAS assessment mission stated that the Minister of Defense indicated that no mine clearance has been conducted since 1997 because the army no longer has the capacity to clear mines.[24]

Mine Awareness

Since 1996, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), United Nations Development Program and Halo Trust have carried out mine awareness programs in Nagorny-Karabakh. The ICRC programs has reached more than 500,000 people living in the front line areas.[25] The ICRC’s mine awareness program works in cooperation with the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Education, UN agencies and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).[26]

The ICRC has handed out posters and other informational brochures to 120,000 families, the majority of which were refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs), who were living in mine-danger zones (refugee camps and southern parts of the country). After gathering information on mine victims the ICRC conducted training for the members of international NGOs and locals. Then they conducted two-hour classes at secondary schools on mine awareness in which 4,400 instructors and 70,000 students took part.[27] This program is ongoing.

Landmine Casualties

Based on the official data provided by the government of Azerbaijan, 5,561 people injured in the Karabakh conflict (78% military, 22% civilian) have been registered in the country. Many of these people have been victims of landmine explosions.[28] Data from the Society of the Invalids of the Karabakh Conflict indicate that there are more than 7,000 invalids of the Karabakh conflict in Azerbaijan and that more than 70% of these are mine victims.[29] In 1995, there were fifty-eight civilian mine casualties.[30]

According to ACBL interviews with people in the Fizuli region, since the start of Karabakh conflict, forty-seven local people have been killed and seventy-four wounded in fifteen localities.[31] Twenty-three were killed and forty-six wounded by landmines after the cease-fire, between 1994 and 1998.

In the Agdam region, according to Mr. Khaliq Iskenderov, a member of Department of Society of the Invalids of Karabakh Conflict in the Agdam region, since the start of Karabakh conflict more than 5,000 local people have been killed and more than 60% are mine victims.[32]

Survivor Assistance

In October of 1994 the Ministry of Labor and Social Defense of Azerbaijan and the ICRC signed an agreement on assistance to mine victims. The Ministry provided the ICRC with a building in Baku for establishing a center for prosthesis production. The first production began in August of 1995. A total of 549 prostheses were produced through 1996. The ICRC center is one of two orthopedic/prosthetic centers in Baku; the other is operated by the government, using German equipment.[33] From July 1994 to December 1995, the ICRC helped 786 mine victims. In 169 cases, victims had a limb amputated.[34]

According to the Department for Social Welfare of the Fizuli Region, from 1992 to 1998 the local authority has registered twenty-two landmine victims whose families receive financial assistance. Psychosocial or physical rehabilitation programs are almost nonexistent.


[1] United Nations Mine Action Service, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, 5 November 1998, p. 13.

[2] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, p. 14.

[3] Azadliq (Independent), (Baku), February 25, 1999 (in Azeri).

[4] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, p. 13.

[5] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, p. 14.

[6] Ibid., p. 8.

[7] ACBL (Arif Yunusov and Khafiz Safikhanov) interviews with Azeri soldiers in Nagorny-Karabakh, November 1998 - January 1999. See also, UNMAS, p. 8.

[8] Sodrujesctvo (Friendship), (Baku), No. 1,3, 1995 (in Russian).

[9] United Nations, Country Report: Azerbaijan. At: http://www.un.org/Depts/Landmine/country/azerbaij.htm. See also U.S. Department of State, Hidden Killers: The Global Landmine Crisis, 1998, p. A-1.

[10] See UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan.

[11] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, p. 9.

[12] ACBL study. A list of the villages, and additional information, is available.

[13] ACBL interview with Mr. M. Namazaliyev, Chief of the Executive Authority, Fizuli district.

[14] ACBL study.

[15] Yeni Musavat (New Musavat), (Baku), 13-19 August 1998 (in Azeri).

[16] UNMASG Mine Action Bilateral Donor Support Fact Sheet, 16 November 1998.

[17] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission, pp. 11, 14. As of November 1998, the agency had not been staffed.

[18] Alan Beaver, Consultant on De-Mining, United Nations Development Program. Report at the Workshop of ARRA, Baku, 2 July 1998.

[19] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, p. 8.

[20] Ibid.

[21] United Nations, Country Report: Azerbaijan. At: http://www.un.org/Depts/Landmine/country/azerbaij.htm.

[22] George Fitzherbert (UK Working Group on Landmines), Landmines in the former Soviet Union, 1997, p. 16.

[23] “Karabakh PM on Land Privatisation Plans,” FBIS Daily Report, FBIS-SOV-98-348, 14 December 1998.

[24] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, p. 8.

[25] International Committee of the Red Cross, Annual Report 1997.

[26] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, p. 12.

[27] K budushemu bez min (Future without mines). Report on the First International Conference on Landmines in Russia and the CIS, IPPNW-ICBL, 27-28 May 1998, p. 51 (in Russian).

[28] Yeni Musavat, 13-19 August 1998 (in Azeri).

[29] Azadliq, 12 August 1998 (in Azeri).

[30] Fitzherbert, Landmines in the former Soviet Union, p. 16.

[31] ACBL interviews.

[32] ACBL interview.

[33] UNMAS, Joint Assessment Mission Report: Azerbaijan, p. 13.

[34] Miny na territorii bivshego SSSR (Mines on the Territory of the former USSR), Report of the British working group, translated into Russian, Moscow, 1998, p. 30.