Azerbaijan-Armenia reconciliation possible if apology offered for past atrocities, Azerbaijan presidential adviser tells Arab News

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Updated 05 September 2023

Azerbaijan-Armenia reconciliation possible if apology offered for past atrocities, Azerbaijan presidential adviser tells Arab News

Azerbaijan-Armenia reconciliation possible if apology offered for past atrocities, Azerbaijan presidential adviser tells Arab News
  • Hikmet Hajiyev rejects allegations that Azerbaijan is deliberately starving ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh
  • Says a peace treaty would change the landscape of South Caucasus, but the ball is in Armenian government’s court

NEW YORK CITY: Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia have escalated sharply in recent months, as each side accuses the other of carrying out cross-border attacks in their long-running dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The two ex-Soviet republics have fought two wars, in the early 1990s and again in 2020, for control of the region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but largely populated by ethnic Armenians.

Despite mediation efforts by the EU, US and Russia and a unanimous call by the UN Security Council in August to resolve their dispute, Baku and Yerevan have been unable to reach a lasting peace settlement.

Now Yerevan has accused Baku of deliberately blocking food and aid supplies to Armenian-populated towns in Nagorno-Karabakh via the Lachin corridor, the sole road linking Armenia to the region.

Armenian authorities and international aid groups have warned that the humanitarian situation for the roughly 120,000 Armenians living there is deteriorating, with shortages of food and medicine.

In a wide-ranging interview with Arab News, Hikmet Hajiyev, adviser to Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and the head of the foreign policy affairs department of the presidential administration responded to the allegations.

Hajiyev also described what it would take to secure peace and move on from the atrocities of the past. A good way to start, he said, would be for Armenia to apologize.

Q: The UN Security Council recently discussed the situation in the Lachin corridor, where council members heard that Azerbaijan is blocking the only road that connects Armenia to the 120,000 ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, cutting off food, medicine and other essentials, causing a deteriorating humanitarian situation.

A: These are unsubstantiated and ungrounded allegations against Azerbaijan. There is no strangulation or blockade of the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan.

What Azerbaijan is suggesting is to have multiple roads. And one of the important roads is the Aghdam-Khankendi road. It is much more efficient and has more logistical capabilities to reach out to the Karabakh region because Azerbaijan has completely rebuilt it.

Currently, the Lachin-Khankendi road is operational and functional. The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent is conducting convoys along this road.

But what we are saying is, let’s open the Aghdam-Khankendi road. It will ensure integration, so Azerbaijan will have direct access to Khankendi and direct contact with Karabakh Armenians who in turn will also have a chance to use Azerbaijan’s major road system to reach other parts of Azerbaijan.

But, unfortunately, the warlords at the helm of the current subordinated Armenian puppet regime in those territories of Azerbaijan are using the humanitarian situation for their own benefit, to prolong their survival as a separatist entity that will not accept Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, and for the benefit of propaganda, disinformation and misinformation of the international community. This has always been their raison d’etre.

We invited them to have a dialogue. But they say no to dialogue. (This is a) destructive attitude. They also say no to food staples or whatever comes from Azerbaijan. This is racism. Because of the origin of the food product, they said they won’t accept it.

Azerbaijani forces reclaimed Fuzuli in 2020, three decades after they lost control of the town to Armenia, finding homes left in ruins and overgrown with foliage. (AN Photo/Ephrem Kossaify)

Q: The ICRC says it has not been able to bring assistance to the population for several weeks and has called on your administration to allow it to resume operations. It has said that under international humanitarian law, all sides must allow and facilitate the rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for citizens in need. What is your response to ICRC’s call?

A: We have very close cooperation and engagement with the ICRC. They are operating in Azerbaijan.

(The) ICRC also knows this very well, because we are in regular contact, that on Aug. 5 there was a gentleman’s agreement whereby the ICRC would be welcome to use the Aghdam-Khankendi road for its humanitarian convoys.

And in the next 24 hours (from Aug. 31, the day of the interview) we will also ensure the full opening of the Lachin-Khankendi road, but Azerbaijan’s customs and border security and border control regime must be respected.

Unfortunately, since the signing of the Trilateral Statement (of the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia) in 2021, the Armenian side was misusing the Lachin road for shipment of military ammunition, personnel and landmines into Azerbaijan’s Karabakh region.

So Azerbaijan was forced to establish the Lachin checkpoint on its border with Armenia. Azerbaijan cannot afford to have yet another grey zone on its sovereign territory.

But my question is: Why is the illegal Armenian regime resisting the opening of this second road? By all means they are still manipulating the international community’s view.

The road is civilization. The road is culture. Saying no to a road has an element of racism to it. It’s a destructive policy. But the time of occupation is past.

Armenian lorries carrying humanitarian aid for the Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh region stranded not far away from an Azerbaijani checkpoint set up at the entry of the Lachin corridor, Karabakh's only land link with Armenia. (AFP)

Q: In August, the former International Criminal Court prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo, published a report describing the blockade of the Lachin corridor as genocide. 

“There are no crematories, there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon,” Ocampo said, warning that “without dramatic change, the group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.” What is your reaction to that report? 

A: First of all, the personality, the honesty of this individual who claims to speak on behalf of justice, is questionable. There are a lot of facts in the international media about him engaging in wrongdoings. But that is not my business.

Second, I do regret that a person who claims to be a lawyer could misuse and abuse the concept of genocide as if he didn’t know what it means. 

Third, he’s biased. Why does he not talk about the genocide and war crimes on a state level committed by the Republic of Armenia against Azerbaijan?

Eight cities of Azerbaijan have been completely destroyed, along with the civilian population. Where is that fact in the Ocampo report? 

Where was Ocampo when in 1992, before Srebrenica, the whole population of Khojaly, Azerbaijan, was massacred by Armenians? 

Who has conducted a genocide against whom? That’s the big question. It is a question that should be answered with regard to one million Azerbaijanis, who have been ethnically cleansed from their land, and who have been living as IDPs and refugees for 30 years.

Why is Ocampo silent with regard to the cultural heritage of Azerbaijan, including Azerbaijan’s mosques that have been completely destroyed by Armenia?

Margarita Khanaghyan, 81 walks past an APC of the Russian peacekeeping force in the town of Lachin on November 26, 2020, after six weeks of fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. (AFP/File Photo)

Q: But it is not just Ocampo. There are also other specialized institutions that have already claimed that a genocide is underway in Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Again, the ICJ has ordered Azerbaijan to “take all necessary measures to prevent the incitement and promotion of racial hatred and discrimination, including by its officials and public institutions targeted at persons of Armenian national or ethnic origin.”

A: Under the International Convention on the Complete Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, Azerbaijan has also put a very serious plan against the Republic of Armenia at the ICJ. In Armenia, the word Azerbaijani or Turk is used as an insult.

That says a lot about the mainstream thinking in Armenian society. I can provide you with many other examples of ethnic hatred and Azerbaijan-phobia. But the facts on the ground speak for themselves. Armenia has destroyed all elements of Azerbaijan’s cultural, religious and even human heritage in the territories under its occupation.  

Therefore, I do regret that some international media outlets are falling into the trap of Armenia’s political propaganda.

Why are Armenians resistant to taking wheat flour from Azerbaijan? You are asking me a question about ethnic hatred. What is that then? Wheat flour doesn’t have an ethnicity. It’s a food staple that everyone can use. But why are they refusing it?

Q: Moving to peace talks. UN Security Council members remain united in their support for a negotiated solution for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The war has ended. A statement was signed. Armenians have said Karabakh belongs to Azerbaijan. What remains to be done to achieve peace?

A: Azerbaijan really wants to sign a peace treaty and turn the page on the chapter of confrontation and atrocities in this region. We would like to live in peace. But the ball is in the court of the Republic of Armenia. The sooner they understand this reality, the better it will be for everyone.

Armenia’s dirty propaganda against Azerbaijan has derailed us from the path of peace treaty negotiations, on a platform provided by Washington DC, which we very much appreciate. We had achieved very important progress. Almost 70 percent of the document had been cleared. In a sense, we agreed.

Signing the peace treaty will completely change the landscape of the region of the South Caucasus. But you have the prime minister of Armenia on one hand recognizing Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity while on the other hand he still keeps Armenian armed forces in our territory. He still finances the illegal subordinate regime on our territory.

Armenian police officers detain a protestor during a rally against the country's agreement to end fighting with Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region in Yerevan on November 12, 2020. (AFP/File Photo)

Q: Do you think the current confrontation between Russia and some Western countries over Ukraine is impacting the peace prospects between Azerbaijan and Armenia?

A: Unfortunately, we do see elements of the geopolitical rivalry play out in the region of the South Caucasus, and our message also to big powers is: Don’t export your internal political agenda to our region.

What we are also seeing is Armenia becoming, unfortunately, another Syria in our region, as it’s divided among big powers according to their own geopolitical interests.

One mission over there is the EU mission. We have been told it is a civilian, short-term mission. But it has become a long-term one. It has military personnel.

Everybody who wants to contribute to peace and security in the region instead of diplomatic adventurism and propaganda, should engage seriously in supporting Armenian-Azerbaijan peace treaty talks.

Q: Is there a reliable international partner, or a mechanism that would be more efficient than others?

A: There are various platforms. We have no preference for one over the other. Our approach is that anybody who is willing to contribute to real peace on the ground, they are most welcome.

On one side, we have a Brussels process facilitated by (European Council) President Charles Michel. This is very much appreciated. Important elements of the peace treaty talks on a normalization council between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been generated from that platform.

And then we appreciate the US government, and particularly Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s personal engagement on peace treaty discussions. They have done a lot.

We also cannot deny the role of Russia. They are also contributing because they are part of the region and have historical relations with both Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijani forces retook during the 2020 conflict the town of Shusha from the ethnic Armenians who had seized it in 1992 for the Armenian-backed breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. (AN Photo/Ephrem Kossaify)

Q: Do you honestly believe there is still room for a reconciliation process to take place? People in Baku have told Arab News that in the past, Armenians and Azerbaijanis used to be brothers and sisters, living side by side. Will this happen again?

A: It could happen again, but really, it’s always difficult to make a prediction about this in the future. Reconciliation really is one of the most difficult parts of every post-conflict situation. In Azerbaijan, hundreds of thousands of families have lost their loved ones and are refugees and IDPs.

Imagine people are returning to their homes to see them in complete ruins. That’s not easy. And they are searching for answers. There is no answer because no one from the Armenian side has had enough courage to dare say: “(Please) excuse us. Our apologies for all our wrongdoings.”

There was not a single case in Armenia brought against the individuals who have conducted notorious actions against Azerbaijan. Bringing justice to people could also send a positive signal.

Yes, I do think that reconciliation is possible, but of course it will take time. A lot depends on the Armenian side.

I have also carefully studied all schoolbooks and textbooks in the Republic of Armenia. Everything is a hate, hate and hate against their neighbors, and the exclusive superiority of Armenians.

This racist sort of thinking is still dominant in the mindset of Armenian literature, Armenian media and so on.

Q: The Armenian prime minister has said the same thing. That peace is a call that has to come from Azerbaijani people who should demand it from their government.

A: I will ask the prime minister of Armenia, is he ready to say, on behalf of the Armenian people and Armenian government, “(Please) excuse me?” I think that this could change a lot.

Why is Armenia refusing to provide information about the mass graves of 4,000 Azerbaijanis? Who will compensate for the 30 years that have been taken from the lives of a million Azerbaijanis who grew up in refugee tents?

Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request

Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request
Updated 04 October 2023

Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request

Biden tries to reassure allies of continued US support for Ukraine after Congress drops aid request

WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden gathered other world powers Tuesday to coordinate on Ukraine as it battles Russia in a war now almost 20 months long — a deliberate show of US support at a time when the future of its aid is entangled with a volatile faction of House Republicans who want to cut off money to Kyiv.

The phone call — convened by the United States and joined by key allies in Europe as well as the leaders of Canada and Japan — was held three days after Biden signed legislation hastily sent to him by Congress that kept the federal government funded but left off billions in funding for Ukraine’s war effort that the White House had vigorously backed.

All the countries that participated in the call stressed that their backing of Ukraine remains unchanged, and no one questioned whether US support of Kyiv was in doubt, according to the White House. But the administration sternly warned Tuesday that Congress must not let the flow of aid be disrupted, lest Russian President Vladimir Putin exploit any lapses to his advantage.

“Time is not our friend,” said John Kirby, the spokesman for the National Security Council at the White House. He warned that any gaps in US support “will make Putin believe he can wait us out.”

Kirby said the current tranche of congressionally-approved US aid would be enough to help Ukraine for another “couple of weeks” or a “couple of months,” although the precise estimate would hinge on current battlefield conditions.

The outlook for the future of Ukraine aid has been murky at best after Biden on Saturday signed a bill to fund US government operations through mid-November that ignored the billions in additional funds for Kyiv requested by Biden in late August. The president, as well as congressional Democratic leaders, had stressed after the vote that they had expected then-House Speaker Kevin McCarthy to follow through on his public commitment to Ukraine aid even as Republican resistance to it continues.

Biden went as far as to imply that e had a deal with McCarthy to move Ukraine aid once the government was funded, although the speaker has denied that is the case and the White House has refused to elaborate on the president’s remarks. Meanwhile, McCarthy signaled over the weekend that he supports linking new Ukraine funding to security improvements at the US border with Mexico. Kirby said Tuesday that the White House supports both issues on their own merits but not tied together.

McCarthy was ejected from his own job on Tuesday in dramatic fashion on the House floor. Even as the White House said it was staying out of his fight to keep the speaker’s gavel, Kirby emphasized that other House GOP leaders support Ukraine aid, not just McCarthy himself.

In Poland, President Andrzej Duda said after the call that Biden had assured the group of continued US support for Ukraine and of his strong conviction that Congress will not walk away.

“Everyone took the floor. The main subject was Ukraine, the situation in Ukraine,” Duda said at a news conference in Kielce, Poland. “President Joe Biden began with telling us about the situation in the US and what is the real political situation around Ukraine. He assured us that there is backing for the continuing support for Ukraine, first of all for the military support.

He said that he will get that backing in the Congress.”

Duda said Biden assured the leaders that support for Ukraine in the US Congress is much broader than media reports suggest. He said Biden called on the participants to continue their support for Ukraine and that everyone assured him that they would.

Kirby added that the other leaders weren’t concerned about whether US would stop backing Ukraine: “They understand what’s going up on Capitol Hill,” he said.

Others on the call included the leaders of Canada, Germany, Italy, Japan, Romania, Britain, the European Commission and the European Council. France’s foreign minister also participated, the White House said. French President Emmanuel Macron was not available due to scheduling issues, according to a US administration official.

The group also discussed how to provide Ukraine with the weapons support and strengthen its air defenses, as well as shoring up its energy infrastructure as the nation girds for a cold winter. The leaders also strategized on how to marshal private donations to aid Ukraine’s economic recovery, according to a White House readout of the call.

“Everyone was saying that this is the next step that will be necessary and for which preparations should begin now,” Duda said of the leaders’ discussion on helping to rebuild Ukraine.

As the White House made its case for continued aid to Ukraine, lawmakers and military veterans rallied outside the US Capitol to make their own call to keep up the funding. Many argued stopping US support to Ukraine would embolden Russia and other rivals to invade other democratic allies after Ukraine, and draw US forces into direct conflict.

Retired Brig. Gen. Mark Arnold, a veteran of the special forces, told the crowd that “the world is watching this debate about abandoning Ukraine.”

“Retreats to isolationism do not work,” Arnold said. China and Russia and other adversaries “will all rise in strength if Ukraine is defeated.”

The exclusion of money for Ukraine came little more than a week after lawmakers met in the Capitol with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. He sought to assure them that his military was winning the war, but stressed that additional assistance would be crucial.

Voting in the House last week pointed to the potential trouble ahead. Nearly half of House Republicans voted to cut from a defense spending bill $300 million to train Ukrainian soldiers and buy weapons. The money later was approved separately, but opponents of Ukraine support celebrated their growing numbers.

The US has approved four rounds of aid to Ukraine in response to Russia’s invasion, totaling about $113 billion, with some of that money going toward replenishment of US military equipment that was sent to the front lines. In August, Biden called on Congress to provide for an additional $24 billion.

A bus crash near the Italian city of Venice kills at least 21 people, including Ukrainian tourists

A bus crash near the Italian city of Venice kills at least 21 people, including Ukrainian tourists
Updated 04 October 2023

A bus crash near the Italian city of Venice kills at least 21 people, including Ukrainian tourists

A bus crash near the Italian city of Venice kills at least 21 people, including Ukrainian tourists

ROME: A bus carrying foreign tourists including Ukrainians crashed near the Italian city of Venice when it fell from an elevated street Tuesday, killing at least 21 people and injuring 18 others, authorities said.
Four of the injured were in serious condition following the accident in the Mestre borough, on the mainland opposite the historic old city of Venice, said Renato Boraso, a Venice city official. Two of the dead were children, Venice prefect Michele Di Bari said.
Boraso confirmed that some of the victims are Ukrainians, and said the bus was bringing tourists to a camping site.
Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that the scene of the crash was “apocalyptic” and that he had already declared the “city’s mourning” for the “numerous victims” who were on the bus.
According to local media, the bus fell a few meters before crashing close to Mestre’s railway tracks, where it caught fire. Emergency crews were on the scene.
Premier Giorgia Meloni expressed her “deepest sorrow” after the crash.

US House without a leader after ousting Kevin McCarthy in historic vote

US House without a leader after ousting Kevin McCarthy in historic vote
Updated 04 October 2023

US House without a leader after ousting Kevin McCarthy in historic vote

US House without a leader after ousting Kevin McCarthy in historic vote

WASHINGTON: The US House of Representatives on Tuesday voted to oust Speaker Kevin McCarthy from his job, as infighting among his fellow Republicans plunged Congress into further chaos just days after it narrowly averted a government shutdown.

The 216 to 210 vote marked the first time in history that the House removed its leader, driven by a relatively small group of right-wing Republicans.

The rebellion was led by Representative Matt Gaetz, a far-right Republican from Florida and McCarthy antagonist who accused the party leader of not doing enough to cut federal spending.

It was the latest moment of high drama in a year when the Republican-controlled House brought Washington to the brink of default and the edge of a partial government shutdown.

McCarthy’s party controls the chamber by a narrow 221-212 majority, meaning that it can afford to lose no more than five votes if Democrats unite in opposition.

That happened on Tuesday, as eight Republicans voted with 208 Democrats to remove McCarthy from his post.

The vote left Congress in uncharted waters as it scrambles to update farm-subsidy and nutrition programs, pass government funding bills, and consider further aid to Ukraine.

It was unclear who would succeed McCarthy.

Other Republican leaders like Steve Scalize and Tom Emmer could possibly be candidates, though neither has publicly expressed interest. Another member of the Republican leadership team, Representative Patrick McHenry, was named to the post on a temporary basis.

The last two Republican speakers, Paul Ryan and John Boehner, retired from Congress after clashing with members of their right wing.

In theory, lawmakers could vote to give McCarthy back the job. He did not respond to questions after the vote.

In debate on the House floor, Gaetz and a handful of allies criticized McCarthy for relying on Democratic votes to pass temporary funding that headed off a partial government shutdown.

“We need a speaker who will fight for something — anything — other than staying on as speaker,” said Republican Representative Bob Good.

McCarthy’s supporters, including some of the chamber’s most vocal conservatives, said he had successfully limited spending and advanced other conservative priorities even though Democrats control the White House and the Senate. They warned their gains would be at risk if they removed their leader.

“Think long and hard before you plunge us into chaos, because that’s where we’re headed,” said Republican Representative Tom Cole.

Democrats said they would not help Republicans resolve their own problems. They broadly view McCarthy as untrustworthy after he broke an agreement on spending with Democratic President Joe Biden, and are angered by his decision to green-light an impeachment investigation of the president.

“Let them wallow in their pigsty of incompetence,” Representative Pramila Jayapal told reporters before the vote.

Gaetz was one of more than a dozen Republicans who repeatedly voted against McCarthy’s bid for speaker in January. McCarthy ultimately secured the gavel after 15 rounds of voting. In order to win the job, McCarthy agreed to rules that made it easier to challenge his leadership.

McCarthy supporters have said Gaetz was motivated by a hunger for publicity, a chance to win higher office, or resentment over an ongoing ethics probe into possible sexual misconduct and illicit drug use. Representative Garret Graves pointed out that Gaetz has been fundraising off his effort to oust McCarthy. “It’s disgusting,” he said.

Gaetz has denied wrongdoing and said he is not motivated by a dislike of McCarthy.

“This isn’t a critique of the individual — it’s a critique of the job. The job hasn’t been done,” he said.

UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas

UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas
Updated 03 October 2023

UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas

UN approves Haiti force after year of pleas
  • The Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation has been in turmoil, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence

The United Nations Security Council on Monday approved a Kenyan-led mission aiming to bring stability to Haiti, a year after leaders in the violence-ravaged Caribbean nation first pleaded for help.

The Western Hemisphere’s poorest nation has been in turmoil, with armed gangs taking over parts of the country and unleashing brutal violence, and the economy and public health system also in tatters.Haitian Prime Minister Ariel Henry and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres have been calling since late 2022 for international support to back the police force, but much of the global community had been jaded by the failure of earlier interventions in Haiti.

Monday’s resolution passed with 13 votes in favor, with China and Russia abstaining. It was hailed by Haitian Foreign Minister Jean Victor Geneus as bringing a “glimmer of hope for people who have been suffering the consequences of a difficult political, socio-economic, security and humanitarian situation for too long.”

A breakthrough in plans for the force came in July, when Kenya volunteered to lead it and send 1,000 personnel.

“We must not fail the people of Haiti,” Kenyan President William Ruto declared in a statement Tuesday, saying they had “borne the brunt of colonial plunder and repression.”

“This mandate is not only about peace and security, but also about the rebuilding of Haiti — its politics, its economic development, and social stability,” Foreign Minister Alfred Mutua said separately.

The resolution calls for the deployment of a “multinational security support mission” — not officially a UN force — with a “lead country” coordinating with the Haitian government.

The mission is initially approved for one year, with a review after nine months.

The force aims to provide “operational support to the Haitian National Police, including building its capacity through the planning and conduct of joint security support operations,” the resolution says.

The mission will also aim to create conditions to hold elections, which have not taken place in Haiti since 2016.

Guterres in a recent report said that the security situation in Haiti has only grown worse, with gang members both more numerous and better armed than the police.

Nearly 2,800 homicides were recorded in Haiti between October 2022 and June 2023, with 80 minors among the dead, the UN report said.

The US has been advocating a multinational force. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his department would continue working with Congress to provide $100 million in foreign assistance, and that the Pentagon is prepared to provide up to $100 million in enabling support.

But President Joe Biden has made clear he will not put American troops in harm’s way.

On Monday, the White House voiced its “gratitude” to Kenya for taking on leadership of the force, and to nations such as Jamaica, the Bahamas and Antigua for adding manpower.

“It is now crucial that we focus on making progress in mobilizing the international support necessary to deploy this mission,” US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement.

For the resolution to pass, China had to choose not to apply its veto. Haiti is one of a dwindling number of nations that recognizes Taiwan, which Beijing claims and has been seeking to isolate on the international stage.

China, in the run-up to the Security Council meeting, voiced doubts and pointed a finger at the United States, highlighting the role of weapons from Florida in aggravating the violence.

Under pressure from Beijing, the resolution expands an embargo on light weapons and ammunition.

Niger says 29 soldiers killed in attack, rejects Algerian mediation

Niger says 29 soldiers killed in attack, rejects Algerian mediation
Updated 03 October 2023

Niger says 29 soldiers killed in attack, rejects Algerian mediation

Niger says 29 soldiers killed in attack, rejects Algerian mediation
  • Niger junta denied it had accepted an offer by Algeria to act as a mediator to solve its political crisis

NIAMEY: At least 29 Niger soldiers were killed in an ambush by insurgents near the country’s border with Mali, the Defense Ministry said, the deadliest attack since the military seized power in a coup in July.

Separately, the Niger junta denied it had accepted an offer by Algeria to act as a mediator to solve its political crisis, even though Algeria had said on Monday it had received official notification of Niger’s acceptance.

Niger and its neighbors Mali and Burkina Faso, also run by military governments that seized power in coups, are all battling militants linked to Al-Qaeda and Daesh  who have killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people in the Sahel region. They signed a security pact last month promising to defend each other against rebels or aggressors.

The attack in Niger took place as soldiers were returning from operations against the militants. They were targeted by more than 100 assailants in vehicles and on motor-bikes using explosive devices and suicide bombers.

“The provisional toll of the attack is as follows: 29 soldiers fell in battle and two were wounded,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement read on Niger national television, adding that several dozen assailants were killed.

It did not specify which group was responsible or when exactly the ambush occurred, but said the military operation took place between Sept. 26 and Oct. 2.

Three days of national mourning have been declared.

The spate of coups in Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger since 2020 was partly driven by frustrations among the military and citizens over insecurity. But the violence has increased just as the juntas are kicking out foreign troops that were previously helping fight the militants. United Nations peacekeepers are also leaving.

Insurgents, many with links to Islamic Daesh, have been particularly active along the Mali-Niger border since French and UN troops left southeast Mali, ending crucial air reconnaissance support. West Africa’s regional bloc and Western powers have called on Niger to rapidly restore constitutional rule. But the junta has been dragging its feet.

The junta said in a statement on Monday that it was surprised by the Algeria’s assertion that Niger had agreed for it to act as mediator, and that it rejected its conclusions.