Azerbaijan to Free Four Remaining Armenian POWs

BAKU (Reuters)–President Haydar Aliyev on Saturday ordered the release of the remaining four Armenian prisoners seized by Azerbaijan in the war over Nagorno-Karabakh and called for compromise in talks over the disputed region.

"We have only four Armenian prisoners-of-war and I now order my national security minister to release them within five days," Aliyev said during talks with Knut Vollebaek–acting head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

Vollebaek–who is also Norway’s foreign minister–praised the decision.

"My degree of optimism has increased now–it’s a very important gesture from your side and shows willingness to move ahead," said Vollebaek–who had brought three Azeri POWs with him from Armenia on Friday.

In the first prisoner release in more than 18 months–Armenia released the Azeri captives as a goodwill gesture to improve ties with Azerbaijan. Twelve Azeri prisoners remain in Armenia–Aliyev said.

The Azeri leader said the next two months should be used to formulate a new proposal that could be discussed during the OSCE’s Istanbul summit in October–where Aliyev is due to meet with his Armenian counterpart–Robert Kocharian.

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