Acting PM Pashinyan thanks American, Georgian, and EU partners for playing a role in ensuring the return of 15 Armenian prisoners-of-war from Azerbaijani captivity during a campaign meeting with residents of Gavar in Gegharkunik, reports Armenpress.
“Two days ago I had a meeting with acting U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker, who said he had been instructed by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to ensure breakthrough in the return of Armenian captives,” Pashinyan said.
Pashinyan said, Reeker was willing to get involved, if the Armenian side was ready for such cooperation. To which Pashinyan showed readiness to cooperate.
“I said we are ready. And today, as a result of these efforts, and the efforts of our Georgian colleagues, namely Prime Minister Irakli Gharibashvili, our EU parters, 15 of our captured brothers are returning to Armenia,” said Pashinyan, adding that the returned POWs will be transferred for a medical examination.
Pashinyan presented the details, they crossed the Red Bridge to Georgia and headed for Armenia through the Bagratashen checkpoint on the Armenian-Georgian Border in Tavush.
Pashinyan confirmed media reports that the Armenian side handed over maps of some minefields to the Azerbaijani side. He stated that the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs stressed the need for humanitarian de-mining. “I want to say that we have not exchanged maps for captives. We have responded to a step with a step,” Pashinyan stated.
“Since November 9, along with the return of the captives, we have transferred a number of maps to Azerbaijan. Over time, in a way that was incomprehensible to us, Azerbaijan stopped the return of our captives, appealed to the international community, saying that Armenia refuses to provide a map of mines. We have never given up. That Azerbaijan side stopped the return of prisoners. Even when Sergei Lavrov came to Yerevan, I even sent some maps to Azerbaijan with Lavrov. “We are ready to continue this process, we have set a task to complete the process of returning our captives,” said Nikol Pashinyan, thanking his colleagues for their contribution to the return of the captives.
Pashinyan then proceeded to read out the names of the captives that have returned:
Artur Stepanyan from Armavir province
Gegham Elibekyan from Artashat
Erik Gasparyan from Yerevan
Sasha Babayan from Masis
Artak Andreasyan from Etchmiadzin
Erik Khachatryan from Masis
Sasun Serunyan from Hrazdan
Sasun Petrosyan from Artsakh
Vruyr Sargsyan from Kotayk province
Armen Budoyan from gegharkunik province
Boris Hovhannisyan from Alaverdi
Artur Abgaryan from Armavir province
Nikol Pashinyan mentioned that 4 of the 6 boys who were recently taken prisoner from Vardenis are in this group, he was taken prisoner in the Old District of Khtsaberd, as well as those taken prisoner during the war.
“I can imagine the joy now in the families whose relatives have returned, but I can also imagine the sadness in the families of the captives. The question arises why people with this last name return. I can not have preferred names, because I can not differentiate between the citizens of Armenia, I can not give a name. I have said that it is clear to us that our brothers must return. I do not discriminate against anyone. The return of each of them is important for me,” added Nikol Pashinyan.