Political turmoil in Armenia creates problems in repatriation of prisoners of war, prime minister says

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YEREVAN, March 2. /ARKA/. The political turmoil in Armenia has created new problems for repatriation of Armenian prisoners of war and other captives held in Azerbaijan, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told on Monday thousands of his supporters who rallied in a show of support in a central Yerevan square.

‘There are many problems in the country and, first of all, the return of our prisoners of war and the missing,’ Pashinyan said adding that to discuss this issue in public is not appropriate.

“The fact is that last week events (the statement demanding that he resign signed by the chief of the army’s staff and dozens of other high-ranking army officers) has brought about new problems in this matter. But I want the relatives of the prisoners of war and the missing to be sure that we do not forget about them and our obligations to them for a minute, even a second. I want to say that your pain is in our heart and believe: our heart hurts like yours do. We are all from one family, since Armenia is my hearth, and the people are my family,” Pashinyan said.

He noted that there can be arguments, troubles, setbacks or failures in the family, but love, unity, strength and faith must be restored. According to him, attempts to resolve political issues by violence must be ruled out.

“We have no enemies in Armenia and will not. This does not mean that the rule of law should not be established in Armenia,” Pashinyan said.

Earlier, the head of the Fatherland party, ex-director of the National Security Service Artur Vanetsyan claimed that he could exploit his personal contacts to bring home all Armenian captives if he had an appropriate power lever.

So far, 69 Armenians, both civilians and soldiers, and 16 Azerbaijanis have been repatriated from both countries as part of exchanges between the two sides.

Armenia and Azerbaijan earlier agreed to “all for all” swap of POWs. However, more than two months after the fighting stopped, Azerbaijan still holds unknown dozens of Armenian prisoners of war.

The Armenian authorities decline demands to disclose the exact number of Armenian prisoners held in Azerbaijan on the grounds that it is a state secret.

However, according to various sources, there are more than 140 names on the Armenian exchange list. The European Court of Human Rights said it has received requests concerning 228 Armenians held in Azerbaijani captivity.

On September 27, 2020, Azerbaijani armed forces, backed by Turkey and foreign mercenaries and terrorists, attacked Nagorno-Karabakh along the entire front line using rocket and artillery weapons, heavy armored vehicles, military aircraft and prohibited types of weapons such as cluster bombs and phosphorus weapons.

After 44 days of the war, on November 9, the leaders of Russia, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a statement on the cessation of all hostilities. According to the document, the parties stopped at where they were at that time. The town of Shushi, the districts of Agdam, Kelbajar and Lachin were handed over to Azerbaijan, with the exception of a 5-kilometer corridor connecting Karabakh with Armenia.

A Russian peacekeeping contingent was deployed along the contact line in Karabakh and along the Lachin corridor. Internally displaced persons and refugees are returning to Karabakh and adjacent regions, prisoners of war, hostages and other detained persons and bodies of the dead are being exchanged.

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