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Azerbaijani President addresses participants of int'l conference themed "Increasing national and global efforts to clarify fate of missing persons" [UPDATE]

18 September 2023 [11:41] - TODAY.AZ

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev has addressed the participants of the international conference themed "Increasing national and global efforts to clarify the fate of missing persons", Azernews reports.

The letter reads:

Dear conference participants!

I welcome you to the international conference on missing persons during armed conflicts.

The issue of missing persons is one of the most topical problems facing Azerbaijan, and the theme of the conference is of special relevance for our country. During the first Karabakh war, a total of 3,890 of our fellow citizens went missing as a result of Armenian occupation of the territories of Azerbaijan. There is irrefutable evidence that 872 of the total number of missing persons were taken as prisoners of war or remained in the previously occupied territories.

According to reliable information, the missing persons were tortured, murdered by Armenia and buried in mass graves in the previously occupied territories of Azerbaijan.

The issue of clarifying the fate of missing persons has always been in the spotlight for the state of Azerbaijan. In 1993, the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Missing Persons and Hostages was established and has been operating effectively over the years.

The liberation of Azerbaijani lands from occupation in 2020 ushered new opportunities for clarifying the fate of the persons who went missing in the First Karabakh war. However, the contamination of our territories with mines and unexploded military ordnance by Armenia creates serious obstacles to the process of identifying mass graves and carrying out exhumation work.

Immediately after the Patriotic War, important steps were taken to strengthen the capacity of the State Commission, determine the places of mass graves in the territories freed from occupation, and necessary excavation and exhumation work was started. In the last two years, 10 mass graves were discovered as a result of excavations in the liberated territories. As a result of the urgent measures taken, it has been possible to identify 15 missing persons, and the public was informed about it. Additional information about 10 more people will be provided today.

I offer my deepest condolences to the families of our missing martyrs, whose fate has been determined, and wish them patience. Clarifying the fate of our citizens who disappeared 30 years ago is not only a serious public event, but also a clear example of the value the state of Azerbaijan attaches to its citizens. Let me assure the families of the missing persons that we will not spare efforts to clarify the fate of all those who went missing in the battles for the Motherland.

In the post-conflict period, the issue of missing persons has been highlighted by us in all relevant meetings and negotiations with Armenia, especially in the Brussels and Washington platforms. Unfortunately, Armenia flagrantly violates its obligations under international humanitarian law and does not provide Azerbaijan with information about the missing persons and the exact location of mass graves. The reasons for this are obvious. Armenia believes that this will expose its further war crimes and atrocities. The international community should put pressure on Armenia to submit information on the fate of missing persons and the location of mass graves to the Azerbaijani side. This is a purely humanitarian issue and its politicization is unacceptable.

Determining the fate of missing persons is also important in terms of reconciliation and normalization of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations. Cooperation in this area can be one of the effective trust-building measures.

The issue of missing persons during armed conflicts is a global problem. Azerbaijan has taken serious steps to increase international attention to this issue. Our country put forward a resolution on missing persons in the UN General Assembly every two years. We believe that there is a need for establishing a special mechanism for missing persons within the UN system.

I am sure that the conference will contribute to the attraction of attention of the international community to the painful issue of clarifying the fate of missing persons.

I wish you all the best and the conference success.

Ilham Aliyev

President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

Baku, 18 September 2023


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