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Azerbaijan, Armenia Exchange Prisoners

In a step toward improving relations, Azerbaijan and Armenia said they exchanged prisoners at their border on Wednesday.

The exchange involved the release by Azerbaijan of 32 Armenians, mostly captured in late 2020. In return, Armenia handed over two Azerbaijani soldiers held since April 2023. Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Wednesday that Armenia and Azerbaijan were also discussing the withdrawal of troops from their shared border. However, it said no decision had yet been taken.

“Thirty-one personnel from Armenia’s armed forces captured in 2020-2023 and one serviceman captured in Nagorno-Karabakh in September have crossed the Azerbaijani-Armenian border and are on Armenian territory,” Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan wrote on his Facebook account.

The South Caucasus neighbors have fought two wars in the past 30 years over Karabakh, a mountainous area that is part of Azerbaijan that was occupied by Armenian separatists.

Azerbaijan recaptured Karabakh in a lightning offensive in September.

Announcing the planned prisoner exchange last week, the two sides said they “reconfirm their intention to normalize relations and to reach a peace treaty based on respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.” The agreement was welcomed by the European Union and the United States, which have tried for decades to persuade the two countries to sign a peace treaty to settle outstanding issues, including the demarcation of their borders. Armenia and Azerbaijan were both part of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1991. Russia regards itself as the security guarantor in the region, but its influence has declined in the past two years as the war in Ukraine has stretched and distracted it.

Source : Daily Sabah