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Issue 4.1 | February 2000 | Information in this issue may be outdated. Click here to link to the most recent issue.

History: Azerbaijan declared independence from Russia in 1918, but was incorporated in the Soviet Union in 1920. It again declared independence in August 1991, following the collapse of the USSR. The conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region is still unresolved after 10 years and Baku has yet to settle disputes with its neighbors over oil rights in the Caspian Sea. During 1988-1994, Karabakh Armenians declared independence and seized almost 20 percent of the country's territory, creating an estimated 750,000 Azerbaijani refugees. As a result of the war, western Azerbaijan is plagued with landmines. Both sides have generally observed a Russian-mediated cease-fire since May 1994. Azerbaijan, with an estimated population of 8,000,000, adopted a new constitution in November 1995.

Landmine and UXO Overview: The disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh, torn by five years of war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, has a serious mine problem. Mines seriously affect farm work throughout Nagorno Karabakh. The United Nations and the U.S. State Department estimate the number of mines to be 100,000. Considering the population density, the land area and the number of mines, the degree of infestation is close to that in Afghanistan. In Martakert, 78 miles of mined roads and 31 sq. miles of mine fields have been identified. Both AT and AP mines have been found.

Victims and Casualties: According to official reports 7,000 people have been injured in the conflict with 70 percent resulting from landmines. The Ministry of Labor has allowed the ICRC to inhabit a building in Baku for prosthesis production. Rehabilitation and psychosocial programs are nonexistent.

Demining: The national Agency for Rehabilitation and Reconstruction of Areas (ARRA) estimated it would cost $5.2 million to demine 22 villages in the Fizuli region. Norway contributed $134,000 in 1998. HALO Trust has trained six supervisors and 45 deminers from the local population. To date, HALO has destroyed four tons of UXO and has started mine awareness through the media. Demining by self-defense units would help increase arable land area by 20 percent.

War Reality Check: The landmine problem was especially evident in the summer of 1994, when a lull in fighting allowed time for the harvest. At least 10 people were killed and many more injured by exploding mines while working in the fields, reported the Tass News Agency.

Contact Information:

Azerbaijan National Agency for Demining (ANAD)