Interview of the President of the International Committee of the Red Cross Peter Maurer to ONA
– It is a long time that the ICRC has a Delegation in Azerbaijan. Are you satisfied with the level of cooperation with the Azerbaijani Government? Are you satisfied with the activities of Baku Delegation?
– Since we opened our delegation in Baku in 1992 we have enjoyed a positive and cooperative relationship with the authorities that have evolved very fruitfully.
This is key to carry out our role as a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization assisting the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
This good relationship has among others enabled us to assist civilians living in the communities exposed to the conflict, visit detention places, seek to clarify the fate of people who went missing in relation to the conflict. We also work closely with the Ministry of Defense on integration and implementation of international humanitarian law.
Our teams in Barda and Baku work closely with the community, using new approaches to get better results and reduce risks for communities living along the international border and line of contact in close cooperation with our main partner, the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society (AzRCS).
For example, we piloted saffron planting that needs no water and little land, and introduced alternative ways to irrigate fields and reduce water consumption.
These initiatives were highly appreciated by the communities and authorities, showing the importance of creating synergies with the government on such activities.
– The ICRC cooperates with Azerbaijan and Armenia in the field of clarification of fate of missing as a result of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. What is done so far?
– It is important to remind that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict led to more than 4500 persons going missing in the whole region. The ICRC in Baku enjoys an excellent cooperation with the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons. This allows to perform one of the most important steps in the search of missing persons, which is collection and preservation of vital information needed for identification once the conditions will allow for the exhumations to take place.
We always keep the focus on the humanitarian goals, which are to give answers to families on the whereabouts and fate of their loved ones and enable them to have proper closure.
– Azerbaijan proposed to exchange Dilgam Asgarov and Shahbaz Guliyev with Armenian citizens Karen Kazaryan and Araik Kazaryan. This proposal was passed to the opposite side through the ICRC. What was the reaction of the opposite side? What is currently being done in this direction?
– The ICRC has been called upon by the sides to the conflict to play its role as neutral intermediary at numerous occasions, on different humanitarian endeavors. This remain in many cases on a bilateral and confidential level, which is often the case when it comes to prisoners’ release.
According to its mandate, the ICRC representatives visit individuals detained in relation to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict on a regular basis to monitor treatment and conditions of detention and ensure that the detainees can maintain contact with their families.
– According to the framework agreement on “The Collection and Centralized Management of Ante-Mortem data on Missing Persons”, signed by the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of Azerbaijan and the ICRC, DNA samples are being collected from close relatives of missing. How many have already been collected?
– Collection and preservation of information on missing people including the DNA is a huge task done jointly between by the ICRC and the State Commission. Up to now, 8031 biological samples from close relatives of 2577 missing people were collected in 39 cities and districts.
– As a result of the conflict, unmarked burials appear. What is being done to search for unknown graves/ burials?
– This is the information collected and preserved by the State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons. They get information from different sources and register it.
We provided training and technical support to them on the ways to document and protect those sites.
ICRC support to the State Commission for mapping graves/burials includes training relevant staff, development of necessary tools for collecting and managing data, as well as the processing and analyzing this information.
A lot of the work consists of gathering different relevant sources, such as archive or eyewitness accounts, of information on missing persons in a systematic and organized manner.
– As far as I know, this is your first visit to Azerbaijan as the President of the ICRC. What could you say about this visit?
– Yes, it is my first time in Baku and in Azerbaijan and I would like to thank the Government of Azerbaijan for the invitation to attend the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit, the reason of my visit. This is an important opportunity for the ICRC to meet with the NAM members as partners in addressing critical humanitarian challenges in conflicts around the world.
Using the opportunity, I had a chance to meet with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan Mr. Elmar Mammadyarov where we discussed various humanitarian issues.
I also had a chance to meet with Dr. Novruz Aslanov, the President of the AzRCS. We discussed excellent relationship and the fruitful cooperation within the Movement which I believe will further continue and develop. Civilians living in the areas exposed to the consequences of the conflict benefit from our joint activities in different spheres.