“We welcome this as a step contributing to the normalization of [Armenian-Azerbaijani] relations,” Armenia’s National Security Service said in a statement on the release of the prisoners of war (POWs). The NSS identified all of them.
The development came just over a week after Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s latest meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev hosted by European Council President Charles Michel in Brussels. Michel said that during the meeting he “stressed to Azerbaijan the importance of further release of Armenian detainees.”
Baku admitted holding 35 Armenian POWs and three civilian captives prior to the latest release. Most of them were given lengthy jail terms in trials condemned by Yerevan as a travesty of justice.
Azerbaijani media reported earlier on Thursday that a court in Baku shortened the prison sentences of four of the five servicemen repatriated to Armenia later in the day.
Armenian human rights lawyers believe that the real number of Armenians remaining in Azerbaijani captivity is higher.
Yerevan maintains that the Armenian prisoners are held in breach of a Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the six-week war. Baku says the ceasefire agreement does not cover them because they were captured after it took effect in November 2020.