June 14, 2021 - 15:06 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Armenia's caretaker Prime Minister, head of the Civil Contract party Nikol Pashinyan has weighed in on the return of 15 prisoners of war from Azerbaijan, maintaining that the move is part of a new process, as a result of which "all our captives are going to return".
Azerbaijan handed over 15 PoWs to Armenia in exchange for maps of minefields in the Aghdam region of Nagorno-Karabakh on June 12. The deal was negotiated with the active facilitation of Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibashvili and Acting U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker.
On Sunday, June 13, Pashinyan told supporters in the town of Abovyan, Kotayk province, that his thoughts were with the other PoWs and their families, stressing the importance of the upcoming snap parliamentary elections across the country. He did not rule out that "certain forces" have been creating "various obstacles to freeze the return of the captives, including for influencing the election results."
The acting PM said Armenia's surrender of minefield maps to Azerbaijan was not "in exchange" for the release of the 15 servicemen, but "in response" to it.
He noted that the Armenian side is ready to continue that process, given that Yerevan is in possession of more information about the minefields. Pashinyan added that the Armenian side is ready to hand over to Baku the maps of all the minefields in the Azerbaijanis' rear: "But the public will not understand if we, having prisoners of war in Azerbaijan, unilaterally return the maps".
Azerbaijan refuses to return all Armenian prisoners of war, in violation of the statement on the cessation of hostilities signed by the parties in November 2020 stipulating for the release of all captives and detained persons. The Armenian side has information about at least 188 Armenians still in Azerbaijan’s captivity, but Azeri President Ilham Aliyev claims that persons still being kept in Baku are not prisoners of war but “terrorists and saboteurs”. At least 19 of the hundreds of Armenian captives have been tortured and killed, according to their lawyers. In addition, six Armenian troops were captured on Armenian soil in late May.