The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) has called on Azerbaijan to set free “without further delay” all Armenian soldiers and civilians held by it one year after the outbreak of a war in Nagorno-Karabakh, reports Azatutyun.
In a resolution on “humanitarian consequences” of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict adopted late on Monday, the PACE also urged Armenia to provide Azerbaijan with more information about minefields in districts around Karabakh recaptured by Azerbaijani forces.
The wide-ranging resolution, opposed by virtually all Azerbaijani and Turkish members of the Strasbourg-based assembly, further says that both sides should investigate allegations of war crimes committed by them during the six-week hostilities stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire accord last November.
The deal calls, among other things, for the unconditional release of all prisoners of war and civilian captives held by the parties. Dozens of Armenians remain in Azerbaijani captivity.
They include 48 soldiers taken prisoner when Azerbaijani troops seized in December the last Armenian-controlled portions of Karabakh’s southern Hadrut district. Baku says they are not covered by the truce accord, a claim rejected by Yerevan.
The PACE expressed serious concern about their detention conditions as well as the fate of about 30 other Armenians “allegedly seen, filmed or photographed in captivity, with no indication as to their current whereabouts.”
“The Assembly is alarmed at allegations made by Armenia that these persons have been subjected to enforced disappearances and possibly killed,” he said, adding that the Azerbaijani authorities must shed light on their whereabouts and release all remaining captives and return them to Armenia without further delay. ”
Baku repatriated 30 other Armenian prisoners this summer in exchange for Armenian maps of about 200,000 landmines laid around Karabakh. The PACE resolution urges Yerevan to release “all mine maps in its possession.”
“The Assembly is concerned about the many allegations of crimes, war crimes and other wrongful acts leveled against both Armenia and Azerbaijan during the 6-week war,” reads the resolution.
It points to a “substantial number of consistent allegations of inhuman and degrading treatment and torture of Armenian prisoners of war by Azerbaijanis, as well as a number of allegations of similar treatment of Azerbaijani prisoners of war by Armenians.” The two sides, it says, must “fully investigate the allegations and bring to justice anyone, including at command level, found to be responsible for crimes, war crimes or other wrongful acts.”
The PACE also stressed the need to help tens of thousands of Karabakh Armenian civilians displaced by the war, protect religious and historical monuments in the conflict zone and de-escalate tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border. It called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to start demarcating the border and “examine the possibility of creating a demilitarized zone with the presence of a peacekeeping or military monitoring force.”
The head of the Armenian delegation at the PACE, Ruben Rubinyan, was quick to welcome the resolution passed by 80 votes to 18, with 3 abstentions. In a long Facebook post, Rubinian listed its provisions, notably the call for the release of the Armenian prisoners, reflecting the Armenian authorities’ position.