“The continuous holding of Armenian prisoners of war undermines the implementation of the agreements set in the trilateral statement,” said Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Anna Naghdalian, commenting on the latest remarks by Azerbaijan’s top diplomat about Armenian POWs.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov said during a Monday press conference after his meeting with Sweden’s visiting Foreign Minister, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Chairperson-in-Office Ann Linde in Baku that in accordance with its obligations Azerbaijan has released all prisoners of war to the Armenian side.
“Azerbaijan’s stance on this issue is very open and clear. In accordance with the trilateral statement [of November 9 last year] we released to the Armenian side all those taken prisoner during the military operations [in Nagorno-Karabakh] and before it,” Bayramov said, as quoted by TASS.
In remarks released yesterday Naghdalian described Bayramov’s statement as “another distortion of the Azerbaijani side on this urgent humanitarian issue.”
“With his statement, the foreign minister of Azerbaijan contradicts the other relevant bodies of that country, which confirmed the fact of the presence of dozens of Armenian prisoners of war in Azerbaijan, captured both during the hostilities and after the establishment of the ceasefire,” she said.
“Azerbaijan is withholding information regarding Armenian prisoners of war also from the European Court of Human Rights, which is dealing with the matter in the framework of proceedings under the interstate case of Armenia vs Azerbaijan. The Court has recently decided to notify the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the subject, noting that Azerbaijan has failed to respect time-limits set by the Court for the submission of information or provided rather general and limited information. There are currently active interim measures against Azerbaijan with respect to 188 Armenians captured by Azerbaijan. I must highlight that non-implementation of interim measures is tantamount to a violation of the Convention,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry representative stressed.
Naghdalian invoked point 8 of the November 9 trilateral statement that refers to all prisoners of war, captured civilians and other detained persons, stressing that “with such statements the Azerbaijani side proves that it deliberately does not implement the trilateral statement.”
At the press conference in Baku Bayramov said that the Armenian military personnel that Azerbaijan stills holds could not be regarded as prisoners of war because, as he said, they were detained after combat operations ended.
“These people were apprehended much later, when the combat operations had ended and a trilateral statement was signed already. To be more precise, it was on November 26, 2020. They had been drafted into the army in the Shirak region of Armenia and sent to Nagorno-Karabakh, where they committed crimes resulting in the death of Azerbaijani military servicemen and civilians. They continue to be investigated,” Azerbaijan’s foreign minister said.
OSCE Chairperson-in-Office Linde is visiting Yerevan today. In the morning she met with Armenia’s Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian. The diplomat is also scheduled to meet with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian later on March 16, with the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement expected to be high on the agenda of discussions.
As a result of a 44-day war last fall Azerbaijan recaptured four districts around Nagorno-Karabakh that had been controlled by ethnic Armenian forces for nearly three decades as well as a chunk of the former autonomous oblast itself. Under the terms of the ceasefire agreement Armenia was forced to hand over to Baku three more districts around Nagorno-Karabakh controlled by Armenians since the 1994 truce.
Russian peacekeepers were introduced in Stepanakert and other parts of Nagorno-Karabakh still controlled by Armenians, including the so-called Lachin corridor connecting the region to Armenia, after Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan signed a trilateral agreement to put an end to hostilities that took effect on November 10.
The OSCE’s Minsk Group, co-chaired by Russia, the United States, and France, still has an international mandate to mediate a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.