Karabakh Releases Two Azeri POWs to Baku

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–Nagorno Karabakh Republic President Arkady Ghoukassian made a decision to release two Azeri POWs as part of confidence building measures taken unilaterally and as a sign of good will on the part of Nagorno Karabakh.

The initiative had been agreed on during the President’s meeting with the OSCE Chairman-in-Office–Norwegian Foreign Minister Knut Vollebaek.

All matters connected with the transportation of the POWs were discussed during Ghoukassian’s meeting with the OSCE Chairman-in-Office’s Personal Representative Andrej Kasprzic.

The POWs opted to return to Azerbaijan and on October 25–escorted by representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the OSCE–Afghan Safaraliyev–23–and Sitratdin Mushidov–21–were taken to Yerevan from where they left for Baku air.

Talking to reporters at the Zvartnots airport–Kasprzic said that the decision had come as a result of the regional tour undertaken by OSCE Chairman-in-Office Vollebaek and his appeal to all to free POWs.

The technical terms of the transfer were agreed on during the visit of Andrej Kasprzic–with the immediate participation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The Fund Against Violation of Law–an Armenian non-governmental organization–also assisted in the POWs’ release.

The time spent by POWs in custody was taken into account while choosing POWs for release at the request of Kasprzic. One of the two POWs–said he was taken prisoner in Fizuli three years ago.

Asked whether they were kept in normal conditions while in captivity–the two said that the conditions were normal. What the POWs said was confirmed by Kasprzic–who–although did not ask the POWs about their conditions in custody–but saw that the conditions they were kept in were normal.

Kasprzic hoped that all POWs kept both in Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia (nine in Karabakh and six in Armenia according to official data) will be freed soon.

The OSCE official said there were no Armenian POWs in Azerbaijan–referring to the statement by Azeri President Haydar Aliyev.

Neither did Kasprzic ever hear of any Armenian civilians kept hostages in Azerbaijan. Though–there is a problem with missing persons–but this problem is already being dealt with by a mixed group–Kasprzic added.

The freeing of POWs is a clear signal that both Armenia and the Nagonor-Karabakh Republic are willing to take part in the ongoing peace process and have committed themselves to ensure a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict.

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