WASHINGTON, DC — The United States has reiterated its call for the release of two Azeri nationals Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Quliyev, who were convicted last year on charges that include the murder of a teenager.
“We have previously advocated through Ambassador Warlick and others the release of these two prisoners to the Government of Azerbaijan,” Spokesperson for the Department of State Jen Psaki told a daily briefing.
She reminded that during the recent visit to the region, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland also urged relevant authorities to return the two prisoners to the Government of Azerbaijan. Last week senior members of NKR government effectively ruled out the release of Dilham Askerov and Shahbaz Quliyev despite an appeal for the kind of “humanitarian gesture” made by Nuland.
“The sides have generally found a way in the past to return prisoners as a humanitarian gesture, and such humanitarian gestures have been shown to reduce tensions and build trust between the sides. So that’s what she was referring to.” Psaki stated.
In an interview with the Karabakh-based Artsakhpress news agency Ambassador James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group engaged in the mediation of a Karabakh settlement, also expressed a view that the release of the two Azerbaijani nationals could be a positive step for the peace process.
“With tensions as high as they are, such humanitarian gestures can lead to a more positive environment for negotiations to take place,” the mediator said.
Talking to reporters in Stepanakert on February 19, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Defense Minister Movses Hakobian, however, said that the matter was not subject to discussion.
Speaking to Public Radio of Armenia last week, Spokesman for the NKR President David Babayan also ruled out the return of the Azeri nationals.