Cluster Munition Ban Policy

Last updated: 15 September 2021


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 has participated as an observer in meetings of the convention since September 2019. It voted in favor of a United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution promoting the convention in December 2020.

Azerbaijan is not known to have produced or exported cluster munitions but inherited a stockpile of cluster munitions from the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan used cluster munitions during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in September–October 2020.


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.[1] Nagorno-Karabakh is claimed by Azerbaijan but under the control of a breakaway governing authority. In November 2020, Azerbaijan told States Parties that it cannot consider accession as “the obvious reasons arising from our assessment that the military posture of Armenia does not allow us” to.[2]

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.[3]

Azerbaijan first participated in a meeting of the convention in September 2019. At the first part of the convention’s Second Review Conference, held virtually in November 2020, Azerbaijan denied using cluster munitions in Nagorno-Karabakh and condemned “in the strongest terms any use of cluster munitions by any actor under any circumstances.”[4]

In December 2020, Azerbaijan voted in favor of a UNGA resolution that urges states to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions “as soon as possible.”[5] 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 (CCW).

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.[6] RBK-250 bombs with PTAB submunitions were observed among the abandoned Soviet-era ammunition stockpiles located near Saloğlu village in northwest Azerbaijan in 2005.[7]

Azerbaijan received at least 50 Extra surface-to-surface missiles from Israel for its LAR-160 multi-barrel rocket launchers in 2008–2009.[8] The missiles can have either a unitary or submunition warhead. Based on the use of the weapons, it appears that Azerbaijan acquired both types.[9]

Azerbaijan also possesses Grad 122mm and Smerch 300mm surface-to-surface rockets, but it is not known if these include cluster munition rockets.[10] Azerbaijan acquired 12 Smerch 300mm surface-to-surface rocket launchers from Ukraine in 2007–2008.[11]


Use in 2020

Azerbaijan’s use of cluster munitions during the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh in September–October 2020 has been widely reported.

There’s no complete accounting of the use of cluster munitions in the conflict as it has not been possible to investigate every reported or alleged attack. However, there is compelling evidence that Azerbaijan used Israeli-produced LAR-160 cluster munitions rockets, each containing 104 M095 DPICM submunitions, in attacks on the following locations:[12]

  • Stepanakert on 27 September, 3 October, and 4 October;
  • Hadrut on 3 and 4 October;[13]
  • Martakert on 4 October.

Additionally, the Washington Post reported in December 2020 that more than 30 unexploded M095 submunitions were cleared and destroyed from a home in Kaghartsi village, 25km east of Stepanakert.[14]

Azerbaijan has vigorously denied using cluster munitions in the conflict.[15] In November 2020, Azerbaijani President Ilham Ailyev called the evidence “fake news.”[16] (See profile for Nagorno-Karabakh for more details)

Armenian forces, or forces it supports in Nagorno-Karabakh, or one of the seven occupied districts of Azerbaijan under Armenian control fired cluster munitions into Azerbaijan during the conflict. Russian-made Smerch cluster munition rockets containing 9N235 submunitions were used in an attack on Barda city in western Azerbaijan on 28 October, killing at least 21 civilians and wounding at least 70 more.[17] There was evidence of use of cluster munitions by Armenian or Nagorno-Karabakh forces supported by Armenia in at least four other locations of Azerbaijan: Gizilhajili on 3 October, Tapgaragoyunlu on 23 October, Kebirli on 24 October, and Garayusifli on 27 October.[18]

Previous Use

There is evidence that Azerbaijan used cluster munitions in Nagorno-Karabakh in the first week of April 2016, during fighting across the line of contact separating local Armenian-backed separatists and Azerbaijani forces.[19] Within 10 days of the ceasefire agreement, remnants of LAR-160 rockets and approximately 200 unexploded M095 DPICM submunitions were cleared and destroyed from near the villages of Nerkin Horatagh and Mokhratagh, close to the town of Martakert in northeast Nagorno-Karabakh.[20]

Armenia’s Ministry of Defense issued photographs on 6 April 2016 showing the remnants of 300mm Smerch cluster munition rockets that it alleged Azerbaijan fired into Nagorno-Karabakh.[21]

Azerbaijan and Armenia both denied using cluster munitions in the 2016 conflict and accused the other side of using the weapon against civilians.[22]

Previously, 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.[23]

[1] In August 2010, 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.” 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] Statement of Azerbaijan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Review Conference (held virtually), Geneva, 25 November 2020.

[3] 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.

[4] Statement of Azerbaijan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Review Conference, 25 November 2020.

[5]Implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” UNGA Resolution 75/62, 7 December 2020.

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

[7] HRW 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] The warhead types are listed in Israel Military Industries, “Product Information Sheet: Extra Extended Range Artillery,” undated, p. 3.

[10] 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).

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

[15] Statement of Azerbaijan, Convention on Cluster Munitions Second Review Conference (held virtually), Geneva, 25 November 2020.

[17] HRW, “Armenia: Cluster Munitions Kill Civilians in Azerbaijan,” 30 October 2020; and Amnesty International, “Armenia/Azerbaijan: First confirmed use of cluster munitions by Armenia ‘cruel and reckless,’” 29 October 2020

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

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

[21] 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.

[22] 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.” “Azerbaijani MFA: Armenian use of cluster munition serves only committing mass destruction among civilians,”, 28 April 2016.

[23] 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.