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Armenia, Azerbaijan Announce Steps Towards Normalising Relations, Prisoner Exchange

This exchange is seen as a positive step towards building trust and fostering peace between the two nations.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have declared their intention to move towards normalising relations and exchange prisoners captured during the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The joint statement released on Thursday night expressed a shared belief in a “historical chance” for achieving “long-awaited peace,” marking a potential turning point in their decades-long conflict over the disputed territory.

In a bid to solidify their commitment to the peace process, both countries expressed their hope to sign a comprehensive peace treaty by the end of the year. The conflict escalated in September when Azerbaijan launched a rapid military offensive, ending three decades of ethnic Armenian rule in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as Azerbaijani territory. The offensive resulted in the displacement of most of the region’s 120,000 ethnic Armenians to neighbouring Armenia.

As a gesture of goodwill, Azerbaijan is set to release 32 Armenian military servicemen, while Armenia will release two military servicemen. This exchange is seen as a positive step towards building trust and fostering peace between the two nations. European Council President Charles Michel praised the joint statement, calling it a “major breakthrough in Armenia-Azerbaijan relations,” and the U.S. welcomed it as an “important confidence-building measure.”

In addition to the prisoner exchange, Armenia and Azerbaijan announced their commitment to signing a comprehensive peace treaty, emphasising mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity. Other significant measures include Armenia’s withdrawal of its candidacy for hosting the COP29 climate summit in support of Azerbaijan’s bid, and Azerbaijan’s support for Armenia’s candidacy in a regional group associated with climate talks. The countries also called on the international community to support their efforts for lasting peace.

The breakthrough was achieved during talks between Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s office and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev’s administration. These talks, mediated by the EU, the U.S., and Russia, have been ongoing, with both leaders meeting on multiple occasions to facilitate normalisation. Talks had faced a setback when Azerbaijan refused to participate in discussions in the U.S. and Spain, citing perceived bias. However, negotiations resumed in Iran at the end of October, leading to this recent positive development.

Kiki Garba