US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, Mark Libby, along with embassy representatives, undertook a visit to the liberated territories of the Aghdam region on April 18. The visit aimed to assess and support ongoing demining operations crucial for the safe return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) to war-affected regions.

Ambassador Libby, accompanied by officials from the Mine Action Agency of The Republic of Azerbaijan (ANAMA), the Mine Advisory Group (MAG), and the International Eurasia Press Fund (IEPF), observed firsthand the efforts of deminers operating in Aghdam. Expressing condolences to the families of mine victims and solidarity with those injured, Ambassador Libby underscored the significance of their work in ensuring the safety and well-being of communities.

Addressing the mixed-gender demining teams, Ambassador Libby praised the participation of Azerbaijani women in such crucial endeavors and reaffirmed the US government's commitment to supporting demining initiatives worldwide. He revealed that since 1999, the United States has allocated approximately $38 million to Azerbaijan for humanitarian mine action programs, emphasizing continued support for demining efforts in the recently liberated territories of Karabakh.

Deputy Chairman of ANAMA, Samir Poladov, shed light on Azerbaijan's mine problem and the detrimental impact of mines on both people and the environment. He highlighted ANAMA's collaborative efforts with NGOs and international organizations, stressing the pivotal role of these partnerships in addressing the country's mine clearance challenges.

IEPF President, Umud Mirzayev, expressed gratitude to the US government for its support to mine action in Azerbaijan and emphasized the urgency of demining actions for the safe return of IDPs. Mirzayev also  outlined IEPF's extensive involvement in humanitarian actions and its contribution to mine awareness and victim assistance programs.

"Azerbaijan is facing a very serious problem today. Karabakh is completely contaminated with mines, and the people of Azerbaijan live under the threat of mines and explosive munitions. You have already witnessed the level of pollution of the areas when you came here. As a civil society organization, we will do our best to speed up the demining action process and for the IDPs to return to their homes as soon as possible."

Jeanette Djikstra, country director of MAG, elaborated on the organization's collaboration with IEPF and APOPO in demining activities. She emphasized the importance of their joint efforts in ensuring the success of demining operations and presented certificates to women minesweepers in recognition of their dedication.

The visit also provided insight into the activities of APOPO, known for its innovative demining techniques using mine-detecting animals. Ambassador Libby observed the demining activities of these animals and acknowledged their valuable contribution to mine clearance efforts.

The presence of key Azerbaijani officials, including advisors to the President's special representation Faig Hajiyev and the Karabakh economic region (excluding Shusha) Chapay Amirov, underscored the significance of the visit in addressing post-conflict challenges.

In concluding remarks, Ambassador Libby affirmed the continuation of such visits to other liberated areas, reaffirming the unwavering support of the United States in Azerbaijan's demining endeavors.

"This visit will not be the last. We will continue our visits to other areas freed from occupation."