WASHINGTON – Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United States Varuzhan Nersesyan highlighted the problems of Azerbaijan illegally retaining and abusing Armenian captives and destroying Armenian cultural monuments after last year’s Artsakh war in an April 2 interview with the Mirror-Spectator.
Amb. Nersesyan stated that the Armenian side has returned all Azerbaijani prisoners of war, including two convicted murderers, during the first two exchanges of hostages in accordance with its commitment to the November 9, 2020 trilateral Armenian-Azerbaijani-Russian statement on the ceasefire. Azerbaijan has not, however, respected the all-for-all principle. It returned only 75 Armenian captives, but still is keeping an estimated 200 prisoners of war and civilian captives, the ambassador said.
In order to justify this, Nersesyan said that Azerbaijan tried to misrepresent the very nature of the remaining Armenian prisoners of war by invoking a fake “anti-terror operation” and portraying the Armenian prisoners of war as “terrorists.”
More than a month into the ceasefire, Azerbaijani special forces launched an attack in the direction of two villages of the Hadrut region that remained under the Armenian control. As a result of this unprovoked aggression, Azerbaijan captured 64 Armenian servicemen, in violation of its ceasefire obligations under the trilateral statement. Nersesyan said, “They are clearly prisoners of war, falling under the full protection of international law and the Geneva Convention. They are supposed to be treated in a humane manner and returned unconditionally.”
If Azerbaijan truly wants to restore long-term stability in the region, the first step, he said, is the return of all prisoners of war. However, he said, “The reason why Azerbaijan is not returning them is clear: Azerbaijan keeps them as hostages trying to gain advantage in other matters.”
A second indication that Azerbaijan is not serious about restoring peace, Nersesyan said, are the videos that members of the Azerbaijani military have been releasing. He said, “The Internet is flooded with these extremely disturbing, horrendous videos, in which the Azerbaijani military has been treating Armenian prisoners of war inhumanely, through beatings, torture and even beheadings. These are not members of paramilitary formations who have videoed these acts, but servicemen in the regular chain of command of the Azerbaijani army.”