ArmInfo. Member of the "I the Have Honor" pre-election bloc, former Deputy Minister of Defense of Armenia Artak Zakaryan is convinced that Yerevan could return POWs from Baku on exchange for minefield maps 5-6 months ago, but held this opportunity in order to use it for pre-election PR.
According to Zakaryan, negotiations on the transfer of maps of minefields to the Azerbaijani side have been under way for a long time. Yerevan several times refused to transfer and the process was dragged out specifically in order to do it right before the elections, and to "throw dust in the eyes of the public."
The maps themselves, as the former deputy minister of defense said, are of strategic importance for the enemy. "Precisely the presence of mined territories not only on the sections of the Karabakh-Azerbaijani contact line, but also in the deep rear of Azerbaijan, for a long time did not allow Baku to start military operations," he explained.
On June 12, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry reported that the Azerbaijani side handed over 15 Armenian POWs to Armenia in exchange for providing Armenia with maps of minefields, where the location of 97,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines in the Aghdam region was recorded. The exchange was held at the Azerbaijani-Georgian border with the participation of representatives of Georgia. "Obtaining mine maps will save the lives and health of tens of thousands of our citizens, including demining specialists, and accelerate reconstruction projects initiated by President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, in Aghdam and the return of internally displaced persons," the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Immediately after this statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the information was confirmed by acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and published the names of the returned Armenians. According to him, Armenia handed over to Azerbaijan only a small part of the minefield maps, which are at the disposal of Yerevan. "We handed over maps of minefields, but this is a small part of those that we have. I cannot say that it is not significant, but small," Pashinyan said. He added that the exchange of maps of minefields has been carried out since December 2020, then it was about minefields that, following the results of the last war, remained in the depths of the territory of Azerbaijan. "We will continue the process of returning our POWs. I would like to note that we did not exchange POWs for minefield maps, but responded with a constructive step by Azerbaijan," Pashinyan said.
It is worth noting that more than two hundred Armenian prisoners of war and civilians continue to be illegally held in Azerbaijani captivity. According to clause 8 of the tripartite statement of the leaders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia of November 9, 2020, all prisoners of war were to be released immediately and without preconditions. Meanwhile, against the background of the inaction of the international community, Azerbaijan continues to speculate on these issues and receive dividends.