The European Union and the United States welcome the joint statement in which both sides agree to exchange prisoners of war and Armenia supports Azerbaijan’s bid for COP29.
Armenia and Azerbaijan said they would exchange prisoners of war and work to normalize their relations, in a move welcomed by the European Union and the United States.
The two countries are locked in a decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which Azerbaijan reclaimed after a lightning attack against Armenian separatists in September.
In a joint statement issued late Thursday evening, the two sides said they agreed to seize a “historic opportunity to achieve long-awaited peace in the region” and expressed their hope of signing a peace treaty before the end of the year.
The statement added, “The two countries reaffirm their determination to normalize relations and reach a peace treaty on the basis of respect for the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Azerbaijan’s September attack on Nagorno-Karabakh ended three decades of Armenian rule over the region and prompted most of its 120,000 residents to flee the region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
Until Thursday’s announcement, there were bitter disagreements between the two countries over the broad outlines of the peace process amid a lack of mutual trust.
The statement said that Baku will release 32 Armenian prisoners of war, while Yerevan will release two Azerbaijani soldiers, in agreements reached during talks between the office of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and the administration of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.
The two countries also said that they “will continue their discussions on implementing more effective confidence-building measures in the near future, and call on the international community to support their efforts.”
The Armenian Foreign Ministry said that Yerevan “responded positively to US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken’s offer to organize a meeting of the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan in Washington.”
European Council President Charles Michel described the developments as a “major breakthrough in relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan” while the United States welcomed the statement and the prisoner exchange.
“This commitment represents an important confidence-building measure as both sides work to finalize the peace agreement and normalize relations,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said in a statement.
As part of the agreement, Armenia also agreed to lift its objections to Azerbaijan hosting the international conference on climate change next year.
Countries have been unable to agree on an Eastern European host for the 2024 climate talks, with Russia vetoing EU countries, while Azerbaijan and Armenia rejected each other’s offers. A decision on the location and chairmanship of the meeting is scheduled to be made next week.
“The Republic of Armenia supports the request of the Republic of Azerbaijan to host the twenty-ninth session of the Conference of the Parties,” the joint statement said. [COP29] To the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, by withdrawing its nomination.
Aliyev and Pashinyan met on several occasions to hold normalization talks mediated by the European Union, but the process faltered over the past two months due to the failure of two rounds of negotiations.
Azerbaijan refused to participate in the talks with Armenia that were scheduled to be held in the United States on November 20, due to what it described as Washington’s “biased” position.
In October, Aliyev refused to attend a round of negotiations with Pashinyan in Spain, accusing France at the time of bias.
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz were scheduled to join Michel as mediators in those talks.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been at loggerheads for more than three decades over Nagorno-Karabakh, which liberated itself from Baku’s control in a bloody ethnic conflict that accompanied the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and survived with financial, military and diplomatic support from Yerevan.
A second war broke out in 2020 before Azerbaijan’s attack on September 19 prompted Armenian separatists to lay down their arms after just a day of fighting.
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