Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Wednesday visited a citizen of Armenia who, under yet unclear circumstances, reportedly crossed the border into Azerbaijan’s exclave of Nakhijevan earlier this month and was apprehended by local border guards.
The man was identified as Henrik Aghekian, a 62-year-old resident of the village of Aygepat in Armenia’s Ararat province located not far from the border with Azerbaijan’s autonomous republic.
Iren Aloyan, a representative of the press office the ICRC Delegation in Armenia, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that in accordance with its mandate the ICRC provided Aghekian with an opportunity to exchange information of family nature.
Armen Kaprielian, the head of the Armenian government-affiliated Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service (Azatutyun.am) that Armenian and Azerbaijani authorities are currently in ICRC-mediated dialogue regarding repatriation of Aghekian.
“This dialogue has not yet produced a result,” Kaprielian said, adding that Aghekian suffers from a mental disorder and crossed the border inadvertently. “In the past he also used to go missing for several days, but his relatives managed to find him and return home.”
On Saturday, Azerbaijan’s State Commission on POWs, Hostages and Missing Persons reported that on August 7 Azerbaijani servicemen detained a citizen of Armenia at the Sadarak section of the road leading to Nakhijevan. It said it had informed the ICRC about it.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a bitter conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh since the late 1980s.
The region populated mainly by ethnic Armenians declared independence from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, which sparked a three-year war that killed an estimated 30,000 people.
Dozens of soldiers as well as civilians were killed on both sides when hostilities briefly erupted in Nagorno-Karabakh in April.
Nagorno-Karabakh - Armenian soldiers at an artillery position in southeastern Karabakh, 5Apr2016.
Civilian residents of Armenian and Azerbaijani border villages have occasionally crossed the heavily militarized border between the two conflicting states by accident.
As recently as in July Armenian authorities repatriated through the ICRC an Azerbaijani woman who had crossed the border into Armenia’s northeastern region of Tavush in unclear circumstances. The woman was reportedly placed in a psychiatric clinic in Azerbaijan after repatriation.
Last November, a 77-year-old Armenia woman from Tavush reportedly lost her way and found herself in Azerbaijani territory. She was repatriated within four days after she crossed the border.
At least three other Tavush residents strayed into Azerbaijan and were captured there in 2014. Two of them were branded Armenian “saboteurs” by the authorities in Baku and died shortly afterwards.