Armenia will abide by the agreement reached with Azerbaijan regarding the exchange of prisoners or war and the bodies of people killed as a result of the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, according to the country’s Defense Ministry.
The Ministry’s spokesman David Karapetian informed RFE/RL’s Armenian service on Friday that Armenia holds two Azeri prisoners of war, while the number of Armenian prisoners of war in Azerbaijan is six.
He said the exchange process is still at its early stages, but added: “The Armenian side is committed to the agreement reached by the presidents and will do everything depending on it to see this agreement implemented.”
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev hosted the latest round of talks between Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev in Astrakhan, southern Russia, on Wednesday. The meeting resulted in a declaration in which the sides agreed on the need for confidence-building measures, including an exchange of prisoners of war and human remains “with the assistance of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group co-chairs and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).”
Ashot Astabatsian, a spokesman for the ICRC Yerevan office, also confirmed to RFE/RL’s Armenian service that the number of prisoners of war held by Armenia and Azerbaijan is two and six, respectively.
He said additionally Armenia holds one Azeri civilian and Azerbaijan holds a five-member Armenian family. The ICRC representative declined to give names, citing the confidential nature of the information.
He added only that the sides also hold the bodies of three people that have not been repatriated yet.
“As an organization that has a neutral mediator’s status we are always ready to carry out such operations, including the repatriation of bodies,” said Astabatsian.
According to Armenia’s former ombudsman Larisa Alaverdian, Armenia and Azerbaijan should have remained committed to exchanging POWs and bodies of killed soldiers and civilians even without an explicit agreement, as both countries have such obligations under the Geneva Convention.
“I think that in this agreement they should have mentioned the withdrawal of [Azerbaijan’s] snipers and putting an end to sabotage activities, so that we don’t have to deal with the consequences,” said Alaverdian, who is a member of the Armenian parliament.
“But let’s hope that from now on the parties will remain committed to the requirements of the Geneva Convention,” she added.