Vienna, 25 September 2013 – “Recent reports that anti-personnel mines are again being placed in the Nagorno-Karabach territory are a matter of the gravest concern”, Austrian Vice-Chancellor and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger said reacting to news from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). “I call on all those responsible to bring about an immediate stop to the laying of these weapons that are banned internationally under the Mine Ban Treaty, and also to clear any that have already been placed.”
The ICBL reported that a representative of the Nagorno-Karabach region had confirmed the renewed laying of mines, claiming they were to protect the region against attack from Azerbaijan. This region with a majority ethnic Armenian population declared its independence from Azerbaijan after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. An open military conflict was ended by a ceasefire in 1994, but the conflict still remains unresolved today. The independence of Nagorno-Karabach is not recognised internationally.
Anti-personnel mines continue to cause enormous human suffering in the Nagorno-Karabach region to this day. The areas that were mine-contaminated during the fighting in the 1990s have still not been fully cleared”, Spindelegger said. “Against this background it is even more irresponsible to lay new anti-personnel mines. This is jeopardising the success achieved in clearance work over the past few years.”
Accidents with anti-personnel mines have occurred frequently in the Nagorno-Karabach region since the 1990s. According to ICBL statistics, 74 people have been killed and 260 injured by these left-over weapons to date. Efforts have been continuing since the year 2000 to clear the contaminated areas of mines.
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