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Georgia mediates the release of 15 Armenian prisoners of war from Azerbaijan – EURACTIV.com

Azerbaijan released to Armenia on Saturday (June 12) 15 prisoners of war captured in hostilities in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region last year, according to Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili’s The agreement reached through mediation was saluted by the United States and the European Union.

According to the Baku Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Yerevan provided Baku with a map of the minefield in the conflict area in return.

U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken stated that the U.S. “thanks” the Georgian government for its “important role in facilitating the release.” Gary Bashvili said he was “proud” of the role that Georgia has played in close coordination with the U.S. Acting Assistant Secretary of State Philip T. Reeker.

In September 2020, fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, which claimed approximately 6,000 lives in six weeks.

The war ended in November with a ceasefire mediated by Russia, and Yerevan ceded large areas of territory it had controlled for decades.

Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement that on Saturday, “Azerbaijan handed over 15 detained Armenians to Armenia in exchange for a map of 97,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in the Agdam region.” A piece of territory given to Baku.

The Ministry also thanked U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Brinken, U.S. senior European diplomat Philip Rick, European Council President Charles Michel and OSCE Swedish President for their roles in the negotiations.

Armenian Prime Minister Nicole Pashinyan told reporters: “With the efforts of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashivili, our Georgian brothers, and our partners from the United States and the European Union, our brothers have returned. Around the family.”

He said he had earlier “provided Azerbaijan with a certain number of minefield maps through Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.”

Garibashvili’s office said in a statement: “An important step has been taken to improve the security environment in the South Caucasus.”

‘first step’

A senior EU diplomat said that before the agreement was announced, Michel helped to facilitate a “parallel humanitarian posture.”

The diplomat added that Michel believes this is “the first step in restoring confidence, and the EU is ready to fully support this effort.”

The head of EU foreign affairs Josep Borel also welcomed the “actions taken by Armenia and Azerbaijan and facilitated by Georgia”. He said that these gestures “hope to open the way for further cooperation between the two parties and the eventual release of all Armenian detainees and the surrender of all available minefield maps to avoid more civilian casualties.”

Russia, which has deployed peacekeeping forces to Karabakh, also welcomed this move.

“The long-awaited good news. We welcome these steps,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said on Telegram.

The Nagorno-Karabakh mountain area is one of the richest mineral resources in the former Soviet Union.

The Azerbaijani government stated that since the ceasefire, 7 Azerbaijani soldiers and 18 civilians have been killed by landmines and 110 people have been injured in Nagorno-Karabakh and its surrounding areas.

During the bloody conflict in the early 1990s, both the Azerbaijani and Armenian forces planted landmines.

Tensions have risen again since May, when Armenia accused the Azerbaijani army of crossing its southern border and “siege” a lake shared by the two countries.

Pashinyan asked Russian President Vladimir Putin to provide military support.

Moscow stated that this will help delineate and demarcate the borders of neighboring countries.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said last month that Azerbaijan was ready for talks with Armenia, and Pashinyan later announced that the two former Soviet Union countries were discussing the delimitation and demarcation of the common border between the two countries.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Armenian national separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh separated from Azerbaijan, and the ensuing conflict has claimed approximately 30,000 lives.

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