Deal Provides Another Important Step Towards Peace in Karabakh
Azerbaijani service members walk during mine lifting in Agdam town in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Aziz Karimov
In a triumph for pragmatism over dogma, Azerbaijan and Armenia appear to have come to a sensible and mutually beneficial agreement on June 12. According to a press release issued by the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Armenia has finally agreed to hand over maps that show the whereabouts of 97,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines that its occupying forces had laid in the Aghdam region of Azerbaijan.
Aghdam was one of many parts of the country that were returned to Azerbaijani control following the Second Karabakh War of late 2020. The existence of so many mines has been a serious stumbling block to implementing plans for a rapid rehabilitation of the area, a region in which many settlements had been left abandoned and in ruins since the early 1990s.
In return, Azerbaijan has sent home 15 Armenian detainees, captured as suspected saboteurs in recent months. Armenian forces found to have been active in Azerbaijan after the signing of the peace agreement that ended the 2020 war are not considered POWs (after all, the war was already over), and such agents are thus liable to criminal prosecution by the Azerbaijani judicial system. Meanwhile, Armenia had often hinted that it never had access to landmine maps. The deal required a publicly difficult compromise from both sides.
The delicate negotiations that led to today’s agreement were reportedly supported by the Georgian Prime Minister, Irakli Garibashvili, mediated by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and assisted by other international actors. Diplomacy properly at work, it seems, producing a positive outcome that can help further push the momentum towards increased cooperation between the former belligerents.