Armenian POWs arrival at a military airport outside Yerevan, December 14, 2020

YEREVAN — Azerbaijan will free 32 Armenian prisoners of war in exchange for the release of two Azerbaijani soldiers detained in Armenia, the two sides announced late on Thursday.

In a joint statement, the offices of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the deal is the result of negotiations held by them. They pledged to discuss “more confidence-building measures in the near future.”

“The two states reaffirm their intention to normalize relations and negotiate a peace treaty based on respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” said the statement.

As a sign of good gesture, the Republic of Armenia will support the bid of the Republic of Azerbaijan to host the 29th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP29) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, by withdrawing its own candidacy and the Republic of Azerbaijan will supports the Armenian candidature for Eastern European Group COP Bureau membership.

Baku did not immediately identify the Armenian POWs that will be repatriated by it. A similar number of Armenian soldiers as well as eight current and former leaders of Nagorno-Karabakh will remain in Azerbaijani captivity.

The Azerbaijani servicemen to be freed by Yerevan are apparently the conscripts who were detained in April after crossing into Armenia’s Syunik province from Azerbaijan’s Nakhichevan exclave. One of them was charged with murdering a Syunik resident one day before his detention. Armenia’s Court of Appeals sentenced him to life in prison earlier this week.

The latest prisoner deal followed U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien’s visit to Baku. O’Brien’s discussed with Aliyev U.S. efforts to kick-start talks on the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty. In what may have been a related development, a U.S. special envoy for the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks, Louis Bono, met with Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan in Yerevan on Thursday.

 

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