BAKU, March 23. /TASS/. Azerbaijan authorities have conferred state medals and decorations upon a group of the Russian Emergencies Ministry who took part in mine clearing operations in the Nagorno-Karabakh territories that were handed over to Baku, the national Emergencies Ministry said in a statement Tuesday.
"The group of Russian specialists who took part in the operation to clear mines from Azerbaijan’s liberated territories was awarded the Azerbaijan medal <…> and the Emergencies Ministry badge <…>," the agency reported.
On March 3, the Russian Emergencies Ministry reported that Russian specialists identified and neutralized more than 17,000 munitions in Nagorno-Karabakh since early December. The agency added that the humanitarian mine clearance had been completed in three districts of the country.
The conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the highland region of Nagorno-Karabakh, a disputed territory that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union break-up, but primarily populated by ethnic Armenians, broke out in February 1988 after the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region announced its withdrawal from the Azerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic. In 1992-1994, tensions boiled over and exploded into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and seven adjacent territories after Azerbaijan lost control of them. Talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement have been ongoing since 1992 under the OSCE Minsk Group, led by its three co-chairs - Russia, France and the United States.
Renewed clashes between Azerbaijan and Armenia erupted on September 27 in the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh. On November 9, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan signed a joint statement on a complete ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh starting from November 10. The Russian leader said the Azerbaijani and Armenian sides would maintain the positions that they had held, and Russian peacekeepers would be deployed to the region. Several districts were handed over to Baku.