YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The Public Relations and Information Department of the Ministry of National Security of Armenia issued a statement October 5:
"The international community is convinced that the meetings organized at the initiative of the Armenian and Azeri presidents and aimed at regulating the bilateral relations will result in the creation of preconditions for the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. Such is the public opinion both in Armenia and in Azerbaijan.
"But the facts testify that there are forces and even high-ranking officials in Azerbaijan who–far from contributing to the peaceful settlement of the problem–do not miss a chance–resorting to provocation–to prevent the settlement of the problem that worries the two peoples. Such is the case with Minister of National Security of Azerbaijan Abbasov–who has chosen as his target the activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross in exchange of POWs–accusing the ICRC of `indifference’ to the fate of the POWs and of failing to adhere to principles in the matter of Armenia’s `concealing’ the real number of POWs. Recently–Abbasov stated that 1,474 POWs are allegedly kept in Armenia–and the aforementioned organization does not care about their fate.
"The ICRC Baku office disproved Abbasov’s ungrounded accusations–stressing that in the year 2000 with the organization’s mediation and assistance ten Azeri and three Armenian POWs were exchanged–and the ICRC has no information of the number POW’s kept in Armenia indicated by Abbasov."
"The Ministry of National Security of Armenia has been stating that only two citizens of Azerbaijan are currently being kept in Armenia: one of them is a POW–the other is a `terrorist’ who offered his `services.’ The minister of national security of Azerbaijan is well-informed of that–but for provocative reasons–he presented to the public an invented number to prevent the negotiating process and conceal the fact that over 900 Armenian POWs are being kept in Azerbaijan."
"The Armenian authorities have repeatedly expressed their willingness to cooperate with the relevant bodies in Azerbaijan–including the national security bodies–in exchanging POWs–but the other side did not take any initiatives. International organizations have always been allowed to examine the POWs conditions in Armenia and never encountered any obstacles."
"We ought to hope that common sense will eventually triumph–and the solution to the problem will be found. The Armenian authorities are ready to support constructive initiatives in the matter of exchanging POWs–and such provocation cannot make us change our firm position."