"The issue of landmines and the existence of minefields represent a significant challenge to peace and stability in the South Caucasus. Georgia stands ready to actively co-operate with different stakeholders from governmental and non-governmental institutions to clean the region from landmines and unexploded ordnance." This was stated by the First Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Lasha Darsalia at the opening of the regional conference "Towards a Landmine Free South Caucasus", organised by LINKS Europe in co-operation with Delta, the State Military Scientific Centre of Georgia in the framework of the 2021 campaign, "Landmine Free South Caucasus".
"Georgia is committed to respect and comply fully with international humanitarian law, including through the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons and its relevant protocols. My country has never manufactured or transmitted landmines to any other state. Moreover, decades ago we declared a moratorium on the use of anti personnel landmines"
Addressing the event which was held in hybrid format, in Tbilisi on Friday (5 November), the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister said that the South Caucasus as a historic transit route between Europe and Asia has a tremendous strategic importance. "Peace and stability of the region is significant for the Euro-Atlantic security environment. In recent decades several phases of Russian military aggression against Georgia and conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh have severely damaged the security of the region. As a rersultof the military activities we have several long lasting conflicts with high potential of sudden escalation. These circumstances expose us to various types of security challenges and the issue of mined areas is among them."
The Deputy Minister added that landmine contamination disrupts economies, limits the cultivation of agricultural land, displaces communities and challenges access to transportation and other infrastructure.
"Since landmines clearly inhibit peace-building and stabilisation efforts we have been actively contributing to the international efforts aiming to achieve a landmine free world."
Lasha Darsalia said that Georgia is among 125 high contracting state parties of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. "For over 30 years the Convention has been a cornerstone of international efforts to protect civilians from conventional weapons that may have indiscriminate effects. Moreover, recently as a result of tremendous diplomatic engagement of the Georgian side and agreement was brokered between Armenia and Azerbaijan to release 15 Armenian prisoners of war in exchange for maps of minefields in the Aghdam Region".
The conference was also addressed by video link by the European Union's Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, who reiterated the position of the European Union in condemning the use of landmines anywhere and under any circumstance by both state and non state actors. Klaar also stated the EU support for the eradication of all landmines and unexploded ordnance in the South Caucasus and welcomed the work of the 2021 regional campaign "Landmine Free South Caucasus".
The event was attended by government officials, diplomats, and members of civil society organisations from Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.