YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–On the initiative of the Karabakh State Committee for POWs–Hostages and Missing Persons–Karabakh and Azerbaijan exchanged corpses of soldiers–one and three respectively–on April 1. The exchange took place near the village of Bash-Kiarviand at the Aghdam-Yevlakh highway through the assistance and direct participation of the International Committee of the Red Cross.
As reported by Vahram Hairapetian–deputy chairman of the Committee–three Azeri soldiers Mirza Guliyev–Rustam Aliyev and Elchin Gezalov died from mines in December 1997–trying to enter Karabakh territory. Karabakh soldier Armen Arzanian died on October 24–1997 in the Fizuli region trying to render armed resistance against captivity.
Hairapetian stressed the fact that the Azeri side which was immediately informed via ICRC about the death of its soldiers–categorically refused any exchange. In the course of three months the Karabakh side repeatedly offered to exchange the corpses. But Azerbaijan’s ministries of defense and national security expressed absolute indifference. For a long time they did not even acknowledge any relation to the Karabakh soldier who was buried on their land. A confirmation of that fact was received after the Karabakh side presented precise information on the burial place obtained as a result of visual observation of the burial. Through the efforts of the Committee and ICRC the Azeri side gave its consent to exchange them on March 29.
Hairapetian noted that the Committee’s readiness to solve all problems connected with exchange of POWs is–as a rule–ignored in Baku. "Azerbaijan is continuously ignoring any suggestion on our part," he said. Azerbaijan still rejects any direct contacts–bringing about political aspects to an absolutely humanitarian mission–he said.