In a short statement, Armenia’s National Security Service (NSS) said the meeting took place in no-man’s-land at a section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border about 70 kilometers south of Yerevan.
The statement said NSS Director Armen Abazian and the chief of Azerbaijan’s State Security Service, Ali Nagiyev, discussed “the exchange of prisoners and the search for missing persons.” “Contacts on these topics are continuing,” it added without elaborating.
Abazian and Nagiyev already discussed these issues late last month at a meeting in Moscow hosted by Alexander Bortnikov, the head of Russia’s Federal Security Service. The NSS said afterwards that they reached unspecified “understandings.”
The ceasefire deal brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 9 calls for the exchange of all prisoners of war (POWs) and civilians held by the conflicting sides. So far 54 Armenians have been freed and returned home. Dozens of others remain in Azerbaijani captivity.
They include 62 Armenian soldiers who were taken prisoner in early December when Azerbaijani forces seized the last two Armenian-controlled villages in Karabakh’s Hadrut district occupied by them during the six-week war.
In a letter to United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres publicized earlier this week, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov branded the soldiers as “saboteurs” and indicated the Azerbaijani authorities’ intention to prosecute them on relevant charges.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry on Saturday condemned Baku’s plans as a gross violation of international law and the Karabakh truce agreement. It accused the Azerbaijani side of “using Armenian prisoners of war as hostages to advance its political agenda.”