Azerbaijan

Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 04 September 2020

Ten-Year Review: Non-signatory Azerbaijan says it cannot accede to the convention until its dispute with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied territories is resolved. Azerbaijan participated as an observer in a meeting of the convention for the first time, in September 2019. Azerbaijan has voted in favor of the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution promoting the convention since 2015.

Azerbaijan is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions but inherited a stockpile of cluster munitions from the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan denied using cluster munitions in Nagorno-Karabakh in April 2016 and instead accused Armenia of using them.

Policy

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

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

Azerbaijan participated in some 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.[2]

Azerbaijan participated as an observer in the convention’s Ninth Meeting of States Parties in Geneva in September 2019. This marked the first time Azerbaijan has attended a meeting of the convention.

In December 2019, Azerbaijan voted in favor of a UNGA resolution that urges states to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions “as soon as possible.”[3] Azerbaijan has voted for the annual UNGA resolution promoting the convention since it was first introduced in 2015.

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 from the Soviet Union.

According to Jane’s Information Group, Azerbaijan’s air force possesses RBK-250, RBK-250-275, and RBK-500 cluster bombs.[4] RBK-250 bombs with PTAB submunitions were observed among the abandoned Soviet-era ammunition stockpiles located near Saloğlu village in northwest Azerbaijan in 2005.[5]

Azerbaijan received 50 Extra surface-to-surface missiles from Israel for its Lynx multi-barrel rocket launchers in 2008–2009.[6] The Extra missile can have either a unitary or submunition warhead, but the variant acquired by Azerbaijan is not known.[7]

Azerbaijan also possesses Grad 122mm and Smerch 300mm surface-to-surface rockets, but it is not known if these include cluster munition rockets.[8] Azerbaijan acquired 12 Smerch 300mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers from Ukraine in 2007–2008.[9]

Use

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.[10]

Within 10 days, emergency clearance operations by HALO Trust destroyed approximately 200 unexploded M095 DPICM-type submunitions near the villages of Nerkin Horatagh and Mokhratagh, close to the town of Martakert in northeast Nagorno-Karabakh.[11] It also cleared remnants of Israeli-produced LAR-160 surfaced-fired rockets, which deliver the M095 DPICM submunitions.[12] The cluster munitions were reportedly fired from Azerbaijan.[13]

Azerbaijan and Armenia both denied using cluster munitions in the brief conflict and accused the other side of using the weapon against civilians. In April 2016, 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…do not bear any military goal and serve solely to perpetrate mass killings among the civilians.”[14] Armenia’s Ministry of Defense issued photographs on 6 April 2016 showing the remnants of 300mm Smerch cluster munition rockets, which it alleged Azerbaijan fired into Nagorno-Karabakh.[15]

Cluster Munition Monitor was not able to conduct an independent investigation to make a conclusive determination about responsibility for the 2016 cluster munition use.

RBK-series cluster bombs were used in Nagorno-Karabakh during the 1988–1994 conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and HALO deminers have cleared unexploded PTAB-1M submunitions near Mugalny village.[16]



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

[3]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 74/62, 12 December 2019.

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

[5] HRW visit to Saloğlu, May 2005.

[6] 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.

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

[8] 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).

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

[10] 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.

[11] 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.

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

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

[15] The article stated that Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh “do not possess weaponry of this kind.” “Armenian MOD provides factual proof of prohibited cluster missile use by Azerbaijani army,” ArmenPress, 6 April 2016.

[16] HALO NagornoKarabakh (@HALO_NK), “Thanks to Aleksey Saradjanov for reporting this PTAB cluster munition found on his farm near Mugalny vil. ‪#Karabakh,” 5:40am, 1 June 2016, Tweet.