According to the information provided by the Armenian mass media, Defense Minister of Armenia, chairman of the State Commission for Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons, David Tonoyan said that he has read about the proposal to exchange the prisoners from the media and has not received an official offer from Azerbaijani side.
The State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of the Republic of Azerbaijan said that in its letter sent to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on April 29, 2016, Azerbaijani side proposed to draft an agreement on immediate release of detainees on both sides, and the return of captives and hostages, as well as the dead bodies no later than 3 days. The ICRC said that the proposal had been delivered to the Armenian side and that it was working on the draft agreement.
In addition, during the meetings with The International Working Group on the Search for Missing Persons, the Release of Prisoners in the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict (IWG) in 2017-2018 in Baku, the State Commission discussed the issue of release of detained persons in a short time on the principle of “all to all”. The proposal was discussed and delivered to relevant governmental bodies of Armenia by the IWG co-chairs Bernhard Klazen (Germany), Svetlana Gannushkina (Russia) and Paata Zakeriashvili (Georgia), who visited Armenia and occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan over the past two years.
Last time, the IWG co-chairs, who visited the Armenia and the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan in October of this year, have a telephone conversation with the Working Group of State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of the Republic of Azerbaijan, expressed their plan to hold a meeting of the State Commissions of the two countries in Tbilisi at the end of November of this year, and said that they want to agree on issues to be discussed.
The State Commission on Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of the Republic of Azerbaijan conveyed to the IWG co-chairs the readiness of the Azerbaijani side to meet and discuss the issue if the subject matter of the issue is the release of detainees as soon as possible on the principle of “all to all”.
Earlier, Chairman of the State Commission, Chief of the State Security Service Colonel-General Mr. Madat Guliyev gave instructions to the members of the commission at the meeting dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the State Commission for Prisoners of War, Hostages and Missing Persons of the Republic of Azerbaijan.
In his interview to REAL Television, human rights defender Ahmad Shahidov, who works in international organizations on the release of Azerbaijani hostages, assessed Armenia’s Defense Minister David Tonoyan’s statement as an attempt to avoid responsibility and said that the Armenian side will finally agree to the process of exchanging the hostages. Noting that several years ago the Azerbaijani side raised the issue of exchanging hostages at different levels, Ahmad Shahidov said that the State Commission on Prisoners of War and Missing Persons of the Republic of Azerbaijan repeatedly called on the issue, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the civil society of Azerbaijan has repeatedly raised this issue: “Until recently, the Armenian side did not respond positively to this proposal. But over the past few years, the situation has changed dramatically in the front line. While attempting to sabotage on the front line Arsen Baqdasaryan (2014), Zaven Karapetian (2017) and Karen Kazarian (2018) were detained by the Azerbaijani armed forces. Then the Armenian side was obliged to change its rhetoric about the hostages. David Tonoyan’s recent statement should be evaluated just this way.”
The human rights defender said that the relevant structures of Armenia and Azerbaijan may meet in Tbilisi in late November this year, and noted that he believes Azerbaijani hostages will be released by the end of this year: “The Azerbaijani side has suggested, as an prerequisite, the exchange of hostages on the principle of “all to all”. I believe that the meeting will take place in Tbilisi, where an agreement will be reached on the exchange of prisoners and Azerbaijani hostages will be released by the end of this year”.