“The return of the captives should take place in the near future: it’s a matter of hours or days,” Sargis Khandanyan, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee of the National Assembly, announced this in a briefing with journalists at the National Assembly.
To remind, yesterday evening, the staffs of the Prime Minister of Armenia and the President of Azerbaijan issued a joint statement informing that 32 Armenian prisoners will be returned to Armenia from Baku in exchange for two Azerbaijanis.
According to political scientist Andrias Ghukasyan, Western pressure also contributed to Azerbaijan’s decision.
“The adoption of the resolution of the French Senate is being prepared, and there are other circumstances too that create dangers for the authorities of Azerbaijan. That is why it was necessary for them to involve Armenia in a statement where Armenia joins Azerbaijan in calling on the West not to interfere in the so-called “peaceful settlement” process. For this, Azerbaijan is returning 32 prisoners,” he said.
About ten days ago, Baku called on Yerevan to conduct peace negotiations in a bilateral format. Armenia refused, but offered to discuss the issues of border delimitation and demarcation works in a bilateral format. The commissions headed by the deputy prime ministers of the two countries met in the Tavush section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. Did yesterday’s statement mean that Yerevan and Baku are starting direct negotiations on a peaceful settlement?
Andrias Ghukasyan does not agree with the claims that Yerevan and Baku have started bilateral negotiations by spreading this joint statement. “Neither Armenia nor Azerbaijan left the OSCE Minsk Group to start bilateral negotiations. Armenia expressed its position that it supports Azerbaijan in the “fair” fight against Western sanctions, taking into account that freedom and security of people were at stake. I have nothing to criticize here,” Andrias Ghukasyan said.
The Armenian side clearly stated only the number of those who returned from captivity, 32, without identifying them and specifying dates. The Azerbaijani press published a list of Armenian prisoners consisting of 48 names. Earlier, Baku officially confirmed that 55 people are held in Azerbaijan.
“These 55 are confirmed prisoners, and the number of unconfirmed prisoners is [estimated] 80: there are direct evidences confirming the capture of these persons, especially video recordings, photographs, eyewitness testimonies, but Azerbaijan does not provide any information and the release of these 32 prisoners exclusively concerns to the confirmed prisoners,” said Siranush Sahakyan, the defender of the interests of the prisoners of war, noting that within the framework of yesterday’s discussions and agreements, no activity was recorded regarding the unconfirmed prisoners and in their the exchange of information the parties did not reach any agreement related to the 80 forcibly disappeared prisoners.
One of the returnees is Gagik Voskanyan, who was convicted to 18 years of imprisonment in Baku yesterday. His name is on the list published by the Azerbaijani side. At the moment, 55 Armenians are being held in Azerbaijan: 41 prisoners of war, 8 representatives of the former leadership of Artsakh, and 6 civilians. In Azerbaijan, Armenians are charged with various charges, from illegal crossing of the border to forming armed groups. Most of them have been sentenced to 6 to 20 years in prison.
Narek Kirakosyan is a journalist, works on the principle of "a person is an absolute value".