Armenia and Azerbaijan have reached an agreement to exchange prisoners of war and are actively working toward the signing of a peace treaty. The European Union has praised this development as a significant step toward achieving peace in the historically troubled region.
In a joint statement, the two countries expressed their shared perspective that a historic opportunity exists to attain long-awaited peace. They articulated their intention to normalize relations and achieve a peace treaty based on the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Azerbaijan launched a rapid military campaign in September, targeting the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. This offensive marked the conclusion of three decades of ethnic Armenian rule in the area, prompting the vast majority of its 120,000 residents to flee. It's crucial to emphasize that the region is internationally acknowledged as part of Azerbaijan.
Before the announcement, the two countries engaged in acrimonious debates over the framework of a peace process, characterized by mutual distrust. As a component of the agreement, Armenia has consented to withdraw its objections, allowing Azerbaijan to host the upcoming international conference on climate change next year.
According to the joint statement, the Republic of Armenia is endorsing the Republic of Azerbaijan's candidacy to host the 29th Session of the Conference of Parties (COP29) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Armenia is affirming its support by withdrawing its own candidacy for the hosting role.
European Council President Charles Michel commended the agreement as a significant breakthrough, expressing his particular satisfaction with the accord to release detainees and initiate an "unprecedented opening in political dialogue." Michel urged Armenia and Azerbaijan to expedite the finalization of a peace deal.
EU Council President Charles Michel lauded the "key step," hailing it as a "major breakthrough" in the relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Expressing delight, Michel stated, "I am pleased to welcome a significant breakthrough in relations, particularly applauding the release of detainees and the unprecedented opening in political dialogue."
The U.S. government expressed its welcome for the deal, emphasizing the significance of the exchange of prisoners of war as a crucial confidence-building measure while both sides collaborate to conclude a peace agreement and normalize relations. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller conveyed in a statement, "The United States remains committed to robustly supporting endeavors aimed at achieving a lasting and dignified peace."
In their joint statement, Armenia and Azerbaijan revealed that negotiations between Azerbaijan's presidential administration and the office of Armenia's prime minister resulted in an agreement to "take tangible steps towards building confidence between the two countries." Azerbaijan committed to releasing 32 captured Armenian military servicemen, reciprocated by Armenia's pledge to release two Azerbaijani soldiers.
The two nations announced their intention to persist in discussions concerning the implementation of additional confidence-building measures. They appealed to the international community for support that would foster mutual trust between the two countries.
Image source: VOA News