Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 02 August 2017

Summary: Non-signatory Azerbaijan states that it cannot consider accession to the convention until its territorial dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories is resolved. Azerbaijan has not participated in a meeting of the convention, but voted in favor of a key UN resolution on the convention in December 2016.

Azerbaijan is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but inherited a stockpile of cluster munitions from the Soviet Union. There is credible evidence that cluster munitions were used in Nagorno-Karabakh in April 2016. Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of using cluster munitions, and both denied it.


The Republic of Azerbaijan has not acceded to the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Azerbaijan says it cannot join the convention until the conflict with Armenia is resolved, including the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan last commented on the Convention on Cluster Munitions in August 2010, when a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official expressed support for the convention, but said Azerbaijan cannot join “at this stage” because of the “ongoing occupation” by Armenia of Nagorno-Karabakh and “seven areas adjoining regions” of Azerbaijan.[1]

In December 2016, Azerbaijan voted in favor of a UN General Assembly (UNGA) resolution that calls on states outside the Convention on Cluster Munitions to “join as soon as possible.”[2] Azerbaijan also voted in favor of the first UNGA resolution on the convention in December 2015.[3]

Azerbaijan participated in some of the Oslo Process meetings that led to the creation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions, but did not attend the formal negotiations in Dublin in May 2008.[4]

Unlike other non-signatories, Azerbaijan has not participated as an observer in any of the convention’s meetings. It was invited to, but did not attend the convention’s Sixth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in September 2016.

Azerbaijan has voted in favor of UNGA resolutions condemning the use of cluster munitions in Syria.[5]

Azerbaijan is not party to the Mine Ban Treaty or the Convention on Conventional Weapons.

Production, transfer, and stockpiling

Azerbaijan is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions, but it inherited a stockpile of cluster munitions from the Soviet Union. Jane’s Information Group has reported that RBK-250, RBK-250-275, and RBK-500 cluster bombs are in service with the country’s air force.[6] RBK-250 bombs with PTAB submunitions were observed among the abandoned Soviet-era ammunition stockpiles located near the village of Saloğlu in the northwestern part of the country in 2005.[7]

Azerbaijan received 50 Extra surface-to-surface missiles from Israel for its Lynx multi-barrel rocket launchers in 2008–2009.[8] According to the manufacturer’s previous product information sheet, the Extra missile can have either a unitary or submunition warhead, but the variant acquired by Azerbaijan is not known.[9] The manufacturer also stated that the Lynx rocket launch system is “capable of firing various artillery rockets & tactical missiles, including GRAD, LAR, EXTRA and DELILAH-GL precision attack weapon.”[10]

Azerbaijan also possesses Grad 122mm and Smerch 300mm surface-to-surface rockets, but it is not known if these include versions with submunition payloads.[11] Azerbaijan acquired 12 Smerch 300mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers from Ukraine in 2007–2008.[12]


There is credible evidence that at least two types of ground-fired cluster munition rockets were used in Nagorno-Karabakh during the first week of April 2016, during fighting across the line of contact separating local Armenian-backed separatists and Azerbaijani forces. Ground fighting was confined to areas close to the line of contact, but Azerbaijan launched artillery and rockets more than 10 kilometers into Nagorno-Karabakh from 1 April until 5 April 2016, when a ceasefire went into effect.[13]

On 8 April 2016, the HALO Trust began emergency clearance operation in cooperation with Nagorno-Karabakh’s Emergency Situations Service and within 10 days reported the clearance and destruction of close to 200 unexploded M095 DPICM-type submunitions near the villages of Nerkin Horatagh and Mokhratagh, close to the town of Martakert in northeast Nagorno-Karabakh.[14] HALO also found remnants of Israeli-produced LAR-140 surfaced-fired rockets, which deliver the M095 DPICM submunitions.[15] The cluster munitions were reportedly fired from Azerbaijan.[16]

Media documented the remnants of the cargo section of 9M55K 300mm Smerch rockets in the southeast of Hardut district near the borders with Azerbaijan and Iran.[17] Correspondents from Russian media outlet Sputnik photographed remnants of the cargo section of a 9M55K-series Smerch rocket in a cemetery outside the village of Shukyurbeyli in Hadrut region. According to the report filed on 6 April 2016, Azerbaijan fired the Smerch rockets on the night of 4 April.[18]

Azerbaijan and Armenia have both denied using cluster munitions in the brief conflict and accused the other side of using cluster munitions against civilians. Cluster Munition Monitor was not able to conduct an independent investigation to make a conclusive determination about responsibility for this cluster munition use.

On 28 April 2016, a spokesperson from Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs claimed that “Cluster munitions used by the Armenian troops against the civilian Azerbaijani population living densely along the line of contact aimed at intentional destruction of manpower, do not bear any military goal and serve solely to perpetrate mass killings among the civilians. Unexploded cluster ordinances [sic] are source of threat for the lives and property of civilians for a long period of time.”[19] Azerbaijan media published a photograph on 27 April 2016 showing an item it alleged was a “POM-1” cluster munition used by Armenia.[20] However, the photographs do not show cluster munitions, but rather the coolant bottle for a thermal site used on an antitank guided missile system.

[1] Statement by Elchin Huseynli, Arms Control Department, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Baku, 2 August 2010. The Azerbaijan Campaign to Ban Landmines organized this roundtable meeting on the mine and cluster munition problem in Azerbaijan and globally. “Azerbaijan will not join the UN Convention on the prohibition of cluster munitions,” Zerkalo (newspaper), 3 August 2010; and Letter No. 115/10/L from Amb. Murad N. Najafbayli, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UN in Geneva, 10 May 2010.

[2]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 71/45, 5 December 2016.

[3]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 70/54, 7 December 2015.

[4] For details on Azerbaijan’s cluster munition policy and practice through early 2009, see Human Rights Watch and Landmine Action, Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice (Ottawa: Mines Action Canada, May 2009), p. 188.

[5]Situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic,” UNGA Resolution 70/234, 23 December 2015. Azerbaijan voted in favor of similar resolutions in 2013–2014.

[6] Robert Hewson, ed., Jane’s Air-Launched Weapons, Issue 44 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2004), p. 835.

[7] Human Rights Watch visit to Saloğlu, May 2005.

[8] Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), “Arms Transfers Database.” Recipient report for Azerbaijan for the period 1950–2011, generated on 15 May 2012. According to SIPRI, the Azerbaijani designation for the Lynx multiple rocket launchers are Dolu-1, Leysan, and Shimsek.

[9] Israel Military Industries, “Product Information Sheet: Extra Extended Range Artillery,” undated, p. 3.

[10] IMI Systems, “LYNX - Advanced Artillery Rockets & Autonomous Launching System,” undated.

[11] International Institute for Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 (London: Routledge, 2011), p. 88; and Colin King, ed., Jane’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal 2007–2008, CD-edition, 15 January 2008 (Surrey, UK: Jane’s Information Group Limited, 2008).

[12] SIPRI, “Arms Transfers Database.” Recipient report for Azerbaijan for the period 1950–2011, generated on 15 May 2012.

[13] HALO Trust, “HALO Begins Emergency Clearance in Karabakh,” 19 April 2016; and HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “NK’s Emergency Situations Service & HALO have destroyed 200+#clustermunitions since clearance resumed in #Karabakh,” 9:14am, 20 April 2016, Tweet.

[14] HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “HALO's assessment of new #clustermunition contamination is underway near Mokhratagh village, Martakert, #Karabakh,” 6:39am, 14 April 2016, Tweet; and HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “Rapid assessment of new #clustermunition strikes in #Karabakh has allowed HALO to establish the footprint (extent),” 8:19am, 6 May 2016, Tweet.

[15] HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “HALO starts emergency clearance of #clustermunition(s) in Nerkin Horatagh village, Martakert, #Karabakh,” 6:19am, 12 April 2016, Tweet.

[16] Roberto Travan, “Nagorno-Karabakh, A 25-Year Border War Reignites With Religion,” La Stampa, republished in English by World Crunch, 11 June 2016.

[17] Murad Gazdiev (@MuradoRT), “@MarkHiznay South-East of Hardut. Right where NKR, Azerbaijan and Iran borders cross. Exact coordinates in pic,” 1:37am, 5 April 2016, Tweet; and Alexandru Cociorvel (@AlexandruC4), “Azerbaijani "cluster bomb" that fell on NKR last night. Patches of burned ground all around …,” 11:22am, 5 April 2016, Tweet.

[18]Traces of war in Karabakh,” Sputnik, 4 April 2016.