A Mutual Exchange
In a joint statement, the Armenian Prime Ministerial and Azeri Presidential offices announced the release of 32 Armenian military servicemen from Azeri prisons, and the release of 2 Azeri military servicemen from Armenian prisons. The identities of those released has not been made public.
The statement says the agreement was “reached on taking tangible steps towards building confidence between two countries”, in order to pursue the “historical chance to achieve a long-awaited peace in the region”.
The prisoners released by Azerbaijan are likely among those taken captive either during the 2020 44-Day war (or second Nagorno-Karabakh war), or during the Azeri attacks on Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) in September of 2023. In 2020, at least 200 Armenian military members were taken prisoner as POW’s. Though the terms of the ceasefire called for the mutual release of prisoners, a number of Armenians remain in Azeri prisons. It is unclear exactly how many.
In addition to the release of prisoners, the statement also announced the two nations’ supports of the others diplomatic initiatives. Armenia announced the withdrawal of it’s candidacy to be the host of the 29th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP29) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, in favour of Azerbaijan being the host.
In turn, Azerbaijan has announced its public support for Armenia to become a member of the Eastern European Group COP Bureau.
Pursuance of Peace
The exchange and diplomatic supports are a part of the two nations’ moves to sign a peace treaty with the other, in order to formalize what they hope to be a lasting peace between them. Negotiations for a final peace treaty have been ongoing for a long time. Previously, one of the main inhibitors for its signing was the former Republic of Artsakh, with Armenia having pursued security guarantees for the Armenian population there.
After the September 2023 attacks by Azerbaijan, essentially all of the 120,000 Armenians living in Artsakh have left, and the Republic has been dissolved. Due to this, progress has reportedly been made on actually signing a final peace treaty.
Charles Michel, President of the European Council, spoke out in support of the exchange and urged both sides to finalize the peace deal.
Delighted to welcome a major break through in ??- ?? relations as they issue a joint statement.
Welcome in particular release of detainees and unprecedented opening in political dialogue.
Establishing and deepening bilateral dialogue between sides has been a key objective of…
— Charles Michel (@CharlesMichel) December 7, 2023
No timeline on the signing of the peace deal has been released. In 2022, both nations stated their hopes to sign it by the end of the year. Evidently, that did not happen, and so it remains unclear when/if a final peace deal will be reached.
The entirety of Armenia and Azerbaijan’s joint statement may be read here.