Prisoner of War Exchange Halted by Azeris

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The exchange of prisoners of war which was planned for Thursday may not take place–according to an Azeri ANS-press agency citing the Azeri State Commission on POWs.

Following information provided by the State Committee–the reason for the cancellation is Armenia’s demand to include Karen Gevorgyan in the list of POWs. Gevorgyan is charged with a crime committed in January 1997.

The Azeri State Commission appealed to the International Committee of the Red Cross requesting the exclusion of criminals from the list of POWs.

However–Gevorgyan is included in the ICRC list of POWs.

Release of the POWs became possible after a joint statement by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Group which stated that all those included in the ICRC lists must be released–including Gevorgyan.

In 1994 Armenia released an Azeri soldier on the ICRC list who crossed into Armenian territory and killed an entire family. ANS-press reports that 11 Armenian POWs are included in the ICRC.

The majority of those held by Azerbaijan are civilians having nothing to do with the armed conflict.

Following an agreement signed by all parties to the conflict in autumn 1994–all civilians must be released immediately and without any preliminary conditions. Armenia released the last Azeri POWs on April 5.

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