The released POWs in Armenia

More Armenian POWs Freed through French, European Council Efforts

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By Nane Sakahian

YEREVAN (RFE/RL and Armenpress) — Azerbaijan set free eight more Armenian prisoners of war on Monday, February 7, three days after a virtual Armenian-Azerbaijani summit organized by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel.

The soldiers were flown to from Baku to Yerevan by a French military plane. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said they were repatriated “through the mediation of the French government and the EU.”

Both Michel and Macron hailed the release, implying that it resulted from their video conference on Friday with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The four leaders also discussed efforts to reduce tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and open transport links between the two South Caucasus states:

“Thank you to our diplomats as well as to our soldiers involved in this operation,” Macron tweeted. ”We are moving forward!”

Four of the freed Armenian soldiers were taken prisoner in Nagorno-Karabakh in December 2020 shortly after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped a six-week Armenian-Azerbaijani war for the territory. The others were apparently captured during heavy fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in November 2021.

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According to the Armenian authorities, nearly four dozen Armenian soldiers and civilians remain in Azerbaijani captivity. Many of them were given lengthy prison sentences last year after short trials condemned by Armenia.

Yerevan regularly demands the unconditional release of the remaining captives, saying that they are held in breach of the 2020 truce accord. Baku claims that the agreement does not cover them.

On February 4, a remote meeting between the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev took place at the mediation of Emmanuel Macron and Charles Michel.

The POWs in Armenia in front of the French military plane that brought them home

The released POWs are Sargis Tarzyan, Vardges Balayan, Armen Petrosyan, Artur Babayan, Hmayak Sargsyan, Gurgen Galoyan, Grigor Kyureghyan and Vagharshak Maloyan.

“The release by Azerbaijan and reparation [sic] to Armenia of 8 Armenian detainees is another sign of positive developments following the meeting with Emmanuel Macron, Ilham Aliyev and Nikol Pashinyan. The EU supports stability and prosperity in the region,” he said, Michel said.

Special Representative of NATO Secretary General for the Caucasus and Central Asia Javier Colomnina wrote on Twitter,  “This is good news. NATO values our partnership both with Armenia and Azerbaijan, supports the normalization of their relations, which will contribute to the stability and prosperity in the region.”

Governor of Shirak Nazeli Baghdasaryan said the POWs will undergo medical examination shortly.

“Four of the repatriated POWs are from Shirak Province: Tarzyan Sargis, Galoyan Gurgen, Kyureghyan Grigor, Maloyan Vagharshak,” Baghdasaryan said. She said she will soon contact their families.

The governor thanked the President of France Emmanuel Macron and the President of the European Council Charles Michel, as well as Armenian governmental agencies and international partners for the support in repatriating the POWs.

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