Dozens of Armenian prisoners of war remain imprisoned in Baku, hostages of the war and the latest clashes between the two countries in Artsakh.Azerbaijan, which calls the servicemen “terrorists,” is in no hurry to extradite them to Armenia.
These people became a bargaining chip in a negotiation that was supposed to lead to peace, but ended up in a stalemate.
The Russian service of the BBC writes about it in a long article “Armenian prisoners of war in Azerbaijan: terrorists, hostages or bargaining chips?
The BBC recalls that in the summer of 2021, a Baku court sentenced 13 Armenian soldiers to six years in prison.
They were found guilty of terrorism, illegal possession and carrying of weapons, illegal border crossing, and creation of “armed formations.
Baku claims that there are 33 Armenian servicemen in custody on Azerbaijani territory.
But Armenia’s former ombudsman Arman Tatoyan says that this figure most likely does not correspond to reality. In recent months, Azerbaijani officials have said almost nothing about prisoners. Experts believe that the captured soldiers are a trade object for Azerbaijan.
At first, Baku said that it was not transferring soldiers to Armenia because Yerevan had allegedly failed to fulfill the terms of the trilateral agreement – it was a promise to transfer maps of minefields to Armenia.
Armenia handed over the cards after all. Prisoners are needed for gestures, for example, when a representative of the US Secretary of State came to the region, our made a gesture, they gave 15 people away,” says human rights activist and expert on the history of the Artsakh conflict Arif Yunus, noting that the maps were just a pretext. According to him, Azerbaijan can also keep Armenian military personnel to strengthen its position in negotiations with Armenia.This, he said, explains why Azerbaijan has not returned anyone for such a long time: There is still a lull in the negotiation process. Azerbaijani journalist Shahin Rzayev, an expert on the Artsakh conflict, has a similar opinion. In his opinion, the Azerbaijani authorities “use prisoners of war as an additional argument to obtain some kind of concessions from Yerevan.
…In December, people calling themselves Azerbaijani eco-activists blocked the main road leading from Artsakh to Armenia, thereby effectively starting a blockade of Armenian-populated areas.
..Azerbaijan made no particular secret of the condition under which it was ready to release its servicemen to their homeland. Several years ago, Azerbaijani politician Samed Seyidov, who headed the country’s delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, said that Baku was ready to discuss the return of the “terrorists” if Armenia agreed to sign a peace treaty.