Azerbaijan releases 15 Armenian detainees in exchange for maps of mines
Detainees handed to Armenia on Azerbaijani-Georgian border
Azerbaijan handed over 15 Armenian detainees to Armenia in exchange for providing maps of 97,000 anti-tank and personnel mines in the Aghdam region, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said Saturday.
The detainees were handed to Armenia on the Azerbaijani-Georgian border with the participation of Georgian representatives.
"We appreciate the support of the Georgian government headed by the Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Garibashvili for the implementation of this humanitarian action," Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The statement cited the mediating role of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Philip Reeker, acting Assistant Secretary of State's Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, European Council head Charles Michel and Swedish Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and C0-Operation in Europe.
"Obtaining mine maps will save the lives and health of tens of thousands of our citizens, including demining workers, and accelerate the reconstruction projects initiated by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Mr. Ilham Aliyev, in Agdam and the return of IDPs," it added.
The Aghdam region was recently liberated after a nearly three-decade occupation by Armenian forces.
At least 20 Azerbaijani civilians and seven soldiers have been killed by landmines laid by Armenian forces since the two countries reached a truce in Nagorno-Karabakh last November.
During a 44-day conflict last year, which ended in a truce on Nov. 10, Azerbaijan liberated several cities and nearly 300 settlements and villages in Karabakh from Armenia's occupation.
The cease-fire is seen as a victory for Azerbaijan and a defeat for Armenia, whose armed forces withdrew in line with the agreement.