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U.S. Funds Demining Efforts in South Caucasus

Ethnic Armenian soldiers walk along the road near the border between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia. (File)

The United States remains deeply concerned about recent reports of attacks along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border.

U.S. Funds Demining Efforts in South Caucasus
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The United States remains deeply concerned about recent reports of attacks along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. “As we have long made clear,” said Secretary of State Blinken, “there can be no military solution to the conflict." Upon announcement of a cease fire on September 15, he said, “We welcome the cessation of hostilities between Azerbaijan and Armenia and will continue to work with the parties to seek to cement it. The United States remains committed to promoting a peaceful and prosperous future for the South Caucasus region.”

In an effort to promote regional peace and cooperation in the South Caucasus, the United States recently announced $2,000,000 for humanitarian demining operations in areas affected by the fall 2020 fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Landmines and unexploded ordnance across the conflict zone continue to kill and maim civilians, block economic development, and impede the safe return of displaced communities.

The last round of serious fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia started in September 2020 and lasted six weeks. But the conflict between these two nations goes back for decades and centers on the predominantly Armenian populated region of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The 2020 war resulted in Azerbaijani control over much of the territory it lost to Armenian and Nagorno Karabakh forces during previous fighting in the 1990s.

The 2020 war led to more than 6,000 combat deaths and more than 150 civilian deaths. It also displaced tens of thousands of people, although many have returned. The Azerbaijani government continues to grapple with how to resettle hundreds of thousands of people who were displaced from the conflict zone in the 1990s.

The 2020 war did not resolve the disputed political status of Nagorno-Karabakh, according to a January 2021 Congressional Research Service report, and it upended a long-standing international conflict resolution framework that emerged after the 1990s conflict.

It is hoped the additional demining funds, in addition to the original $500,000 announced in November 2021, will support the technical capacity of demining organizations to clear deadly landmines and unexploded ordnance so people can rebuild their lives safely. Renewed hostilities in the South Caucasus put all of that at risk.

The United States is the world’s largest single financial supporter of conventional weapons destruction, investing over $4.7 billion in more than 100 countries since 1993 to promote international peace and security by addressing the threats that landmines and unexploded ordnance pose to civilians.