Azerbaijan releases Armenian prisoners of war after EU talks

Azerbaijan released 10 Armenian prisoners of war Sunday following EU-hosted talks between Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

“Warmly welcome Baku’s release of 10 Armenian detainees in follow up to discussions with @azpresident and @NikolPashinyan,” tweeted Charles Michel, president of the European Council. “An important humanitarian gesture demonstrating the mutual will to strengthen confidence as discussed in Brussels.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a ceasefire at their border last month, after Russia urged deescalation following a flareup in fighting. The November incidents represented the worst clashes since a 44-day war last year which resulted in significant military gains for Azerbaijan. 

Earlier this month, Azerbaijan handed over 10 Armenian soldiers in exchange for maps revealing the location of landmines in the Karabakh region, a deal mediated by Russia. A similar exchange was negotiated in June by the EU and United States.

The Azerbaijan State News Agency (AZERTAC) reported that Sunday’s move was a result of talks involving Aliyev, Pashinyan and Michel in Brussels last week.

A senior EU official said the plane transferring the prisoners to the Armenian capital of Yerevan was paid for by the EU. Toivo Klaar, the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus, was on the flight.

“Happy to have been able to repatriate 10 [Armenian] servicemen” Klaar wrote on Twitter. He added that the EU “will continue to work with both countries to build on the successful meetings” between Michel, Aliyev and Pashinyan.

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