Armenia and Azerbaijan take steps towards peace

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FILE PHOTO: A general view shows central Baku, Azerbaijan, June 23, 2016. REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov/File Photo

Armenia and Azerbaijan have announced their intention to exchange prisoners of war and take steps towards normalizing their relations, a development that has been positively received by the international community.

The two nations have been engaged in a protracted conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, with Azerbaijan reclaiming the territory in a swift offensive against Armenian separatists in September. In a joint statement issued late on Thursday, both parties expressed their commitment to a historic chance for lasting peace in the region, aiming to finalize a peace treaty by the end of the year.

Affirming their intent to normalize relations based on principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity, the statement highlighted specific agreements reached during talks between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Baku also agreed to release 32 Armenian prisoners of war, reciprocated by Yerevan releasing two Azerbaijani servicemen.

The joint statement also outlined the ongoing discussions about implementing measures to increase the stability in the region and called on the international community to support their efforts. Armenia’s foreign ministry conveyed a positive response to the offer from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to host a meeting between the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Washington.

As part of the agreement, Armenia withdrew its objections to Azerbaijan hosting the COP29, next year’s international conference on climate change, resolving a longstanding dispute over the location.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have been in conflict for over three decades, initially over Nagorno-Karabakh’s liberation, in a bloody ethnic conflict following the Soviet Union’s collapse in 1991. A second war erupted in 2020, culminating in Azerbaijan’s September 19 offensive, leading Armenian separatists to surrender after a single day of fighting. Despite previous EU-mediated talks between Aliyev and Pashinyan, recent months saw a stalled normalization process, with Azerbaijan citing perceived bias in international mediation efforts.

 

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