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Armenia-Azerbaijan ministers’ meeting cancelled, POWs exchanged for mine maps

6 December 2021
Image via Civilnet.

A planned meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers was cancelled within hours of it taking place. That same weekend, ten Armenian POWs were returned in exchange for landmine maps and an Armenian resident of Nagorno-Karabakh was killed by Azerbaijani troops.

A meeting of Armenian and Azerbaijani Foreign Ministers was expected to be held during the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) summit in Stockholm. 

On 4 December, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva commented on the cancelled meeting. ‘A few hours before the meeting, the visit of Armenian parliamentarians to Nagorno-Karabakh, the sovereign territories of Azerbaijan, was a provocation, and Azerbaijan refused to meet,’ she said.

A statement from the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group — Russia, the United States, and France —  expressed ‘regret’ that the meeting did not take place and stressed a ‘readiness to host such a meeting as soon as circumstances allow to continue discussions begun in New York in September and in Paris in November’.

This was only one of several notable developments between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the weekend.

Maps, POWs, and a killing

On 4 December, 10 Armenian prisoners of war were returned to Armenia following their capture in border clashes on 16 November. Armenia, meanwhile, turned over a series of maps locating landmines in territories ceded by Armenia to Azerbaijan during and after the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War.

[Read more: Worst fighting since the end of Second Nagorno-Karabakh War]

A statement from the Azerbaijani State Security Service thanked the Russian Ministry of Defence for facilitating the talks that led to the exchange. 

Additionally, on 3 December, Nagorno-Karabakh authorities reported that a 65-year-old resident of the town of Chartar in the region of Martuni (Khojavend)  was taken captive and killed by Azerbaijani soldiers. 

According to the Nagorno-Karabakh Prosecutor’s Office, Seyran Sargsyan, ‘was apparently arrested and taken’ by Azerbaijani soldiers to a military post, ‘where he was shot and killed’.

In a statement commenting on the incident, the Azerbaijani Ministry of Defense said that a person of Armenian origin was ‘neutralised during an attack on a soldier serving in the district of Khojavend’.

‘The man tried to seize a weapon. After firing into the air, our serviceman neutralised the provocateur who attacked him in self-defence’, the statement reads. An investigation has reportedly been launched.

The Russian Peacekeeping Mission in Nagorno-Karabakh also noted the incident as a ‘violation of the ceasefire regime’. 

‘According to the results of the work of the operational group of the Russian peacekeeping contingent and representatives of the military prosecutor's office of the Fizuli garrison of the armed forces of the Republic of Azerbaijan at the scene, the Azerbaijani side opened a criminal case on the death of a civilian’, the statement reads.

The death of Sargsyan marks the third killing of an Armenian civilian by Azerbaijani troops in Nagorno-Karabakh in the last eight weeks.

[Read more: Major road closed as Nagorno-Karabakh civilian reportedly shot dead]

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

Additional reporting by Ismi Aghayev.

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