At UN Court, Azerbaijan Accuses Armenia of Ethnic Cleansing

Azerbaijan's deputy foreign minister has accused Armenia of "ethnic cleansing" and of continuing to lay land mines on its territory even after a cease-fire ended a six-week war in the disputed region late last year, as a second case related to the conflict opened on October 18 at the United Nations' top court in The Hague.

Armenia denied the accusations.

On October 14, the court held hearings into a complaint brought by Armenia against Azerbaijan, also related to last year's war that left more than 6,600 people dead and ended with Azerbaijan regaining control of large swaths of territory.

The "campaign of ethnic cleansing and incitement to violence against Azerbaijanis, is ongoing," Elnur Mammadov told the International Court of Justice on October 18.

Mammadov added that the alleged campaign of placing land mines "is quite simply a continuation of Armenia's decades-long ethnic-cleansing operation and an attempt to keep these territories cleansed of Azerbaijanis."

Armenia's representative, Yeghishe Kirakosian, dismissed the Azerbaijani claims as "manufactured and defensive moves."

He said that Azerbaijan itself planted hundreds of thousands of land mines in the conflict area in the early 1990s.

Kirakosian called Azerbaijan's case "an exercise in false equivalencies. A tactic engineered to create a fog of information, one designed to give the impression that Azerbaijan is the true victim."

Armenia has already handed over two minefield maps and "we stand ready to provide any more maps in our possession," Kirakosian told the court.

Mammadov said that mines laid by Armenian forces during and since the war had killed or injured at least 106 Azerbaijanis, including 65 civilians, since the conflict was ended by a Russian-brokered peace deal.

"There is no valid military or other reason for Armenia to continue to target and terrorize Azerbaijanis in this manner, he told the court.

Kirakosian called the claim that Armenian forces continue to lay land mines baseless and told judges that "in the context of resolving all outstanding humanitarian issues, we stand ready to provide any more maps in our possession."

During last week's hearing, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of serious human rights violations while Azerbaijan rejected Armenia's "inaccurate picture" and defended its actions in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Both countries' cases alleging breaches of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination will likely take years to reach their conclusion at the ICJ.

Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as being part of Azerbaijan, but the entire territory and seven surrounding districts were controlled by ethnic Armenian forces from the end of a separatist war in 1994 until last year's war.

The two sides have skirmished regularly over the years.

Internationally mediated negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE involving the so-called Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, the United States, and France, have been unable to produce a lasting settlement of the conflict.

In September 2020, Azerbaijan launched a military offensive that resulted in Baku regaining control of the seven surrounding districts, and a significant chunk of Nagorno-Karabakh itself.

The conflict ended when Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian signed the cease-fire agreement that granted Azerbaijan control over parts of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as adjacent territories occupied by Armenians.

Armenia says more than 3,700 Armenians and Nagorno-Karabakh residents died in the war. Azerbaijan said it lost 2,900 people.

With reporting by AP and Reuters