YEREVAN — Azerbaijan set free eight more Armenian prisoners of war on Monday three days after a virtual Armenian-Azerbaijani summit organized by French President Emmanuel Macron and European Council President Charles Michel.
The soldiers were flown from Baku to Yerevan by a French military plane. The Armenian Foreign Ministry said they were repatriated “through the mediation of the French government and the EU.”
They were later identified as: Sargis Tarzyan, Vardges Balayan, Armen Petrosyan, Arthur Babayan, Hmayak Sargsyan, Gurgen Galoyan, Grigor Kyureghyan and Vagharshak Maloyan.
Both Michel and Macron hailed the release, implying that it resulted from their video conference on Friday with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The four leaders also discussed efforts to reduce tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and open transport links between the two South Caucasus states
“Thank you to our diplomats as well as to our soldiers involved in this operation,” tweeted Macron. “We are moving forward!”
Four of the freed Armenian soldiers were taken prisoner in Nagorno-Karabakh in December 2020 shortly after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped a six-week Armenian-Azerbaijani war for the territory. The others were apparently captured during heavy fighting on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border in November 2021.
According to the Armenian authorities, nearly four dozen Armenian soldiers and civilians remain in Azerbaijani captivity. Many of them were given lengthy prison sentences last year after short trials condemned by Armenia.
Yerevan regularly demands the unconditional release of the remaining captives, saying that they are held in breach of the 2020 truce accord. Baku claims that the agreement does not cover them.