YEREVAN, March 17. /ARKA /. Armenian prisoners of war held in Azerbaijan must be returned, France’s Ambassador to Armenia Jonathan Lacôte said today.
“My approach to the issue of prisoners of war is clear and concrete: they must be returned home. The process must be carried out not only based the trilateral statement of November 9, but also based on the principles of protection of human rights enshrined in international conventions,” Lacôte told journalists in Yerevan on Wednesday, Armenpress reported.
According to the ambassador, the OSCE Minsk Group remains the only body for mediating a peaceful diplomatic settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“When we speak about the OSCE Minsk Group, it should be understood that we are dealing with a negotiating body that is ready to mediate and help both sides. The Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde, during her visit to Armenia as the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, also mentioned that the OSCE Minsk Group is the body for mediating a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Lacôte said.
The diplomat added that the Minsk Group co-chairs are currently negotiating a working visit to the region.
So far, 70 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, Azerbaijan still holds unknown dozens of Armenian prisoners of war and civilians.
The Armenian authorities decline to disclose the exact number of Armenian prisoners held in Azerbaijan on the grounds that it is a state secret.
The European Court of Human Rights, which is dealing with the matter in the framework of proceedings under the interstate case of Armenia vs Azerbaijan has recently notified the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe on the subject, noting that Azerbaijan has failed to respect time-limits set by the Court for the submission of information or provided rather general and limited information. There are currently active interim measures against Azerbaijan with respect to 188 Armenians captured by Azerbaijan. -0-