Azerbaijan accuses Armenia of ‘ethnic cleansing’ at UN court

The two rivals are trading accusations at the International Court of Justice, almost a year since signing a ceasefire.

Azerbaijan has accused Armenia of laying landmines in Nagorno-Karabakh [File: Aziz Karimov/Reuters]

Azerbaijan has gone to the UN top court to accuse Armenia of laying landmines in Nagorno-Karabakh as part of a campaign of “ethnic cleansing”, despite an end in hostilities between the two rivals.

Azerbaijani deputy foreign minister Elnur Mammadov requested that the International Court of Justice order Armenia to halt the laying of landmines, provide Azerbaijan with maps of minefields and take measures to halt incitement of racial hatred.

“Armenia’s campaign of ethnic cleansing and incitement to violence against Azerbaijanis is ongoing,” Mammadov told the Hague-based court on Monday.

“Provisional measures are urgently required to prevent further irreparable harm.”

The two former Soviet republics battled for six weeks last autumn over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in a conflict that claimed more than 6,500 lives.

The fighting ended when Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a ceasefire agreement that granted Azerbaijan control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as adjacent territories occupied by Armenians.

Mammadov said that after the “liberation” of parts of the region last year, Azerbaijani civilians who returned to their homes had found the area had been “carpeted” with landmines by Armenia.

Armenia “still to this day refuses to share complete and accurate maps of the mines needed to progress clearance operations, and even continues to plant new mines on Azerbaijan’s territory,” he said.

“This is quite simply a continuation of Armenia’s decades-long ethnic cleansing campaign and an attempt to keep this territory cleansed of Azerbaijanis in pursuit of some desperate revanchist design.”

According to figures cited by the deputy foreign minister, at least 106 Azerbaijanis including 65 civilians have been killed or injured by mines since the end of last year’s conflict.

Armenian representative Yeghishe Kirakosyan urged the court to reject the requests, calling Azerbaijan’s case “a tactic engineered to … give the impression that Azerbaijan is the true victim”.

Kirakosyan denied the accusations and told judges that “in the context of resolving all outstanding humanitarian issues, we stand ready to provide any more maps in our possession”.

The complaint follows one brought by Armenia last week, in which Azerbaijan was accused of inciting ethnic hatred and requested to release prisoners from the war.

Both cases will likely take years to reach a conclusion at the Hague-based court.

The hearings in recent days have focused on both countries’ requests for provisional measures, which the court can impose in order to prevent acts that could affect the cases.

Judges will likely issue their decisions on those requests in the coming weeks.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies