06/15/2021, 10.58
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Conflict with Baku: Tbilisi aids in release of 15 Armenian prisoners

by Vladimir Rozanskij

In the exchange, the Azerbaijanis obtained mas of the minefields in the province of Agdam. At least another 200 soldiers from Yerevan remain in Azerbaijan. Backed by the USA, the European Union and Turkey, the Georgians offer themselves as mediators in the conflicts in the Caucasus.

Moscow (AsiaNews) – Armenian interim Prime Minister Nikol Pašinyan announced yesterday that "15 of our brothers are returning home" after being detained in Azerbaijan following the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh.

Thanks to the mediation of Georgia, the Azeris decided to free the hostages in exchange for the maps of the minefields in the province of Agdam. Georgian Prime Minister Iraklij Garibašvili would have played a leading role in closing the deal.

The United States reportedly inspired Georgia's intervention during President Joe Biden's visit to Europe, and on the eve of his meeting with Vladimir Putin. Philip Reeker, US Deputy Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, is a key figure in the deal. The Caucasus issue has become an edge to international equilibrium, in a very delicate phase for the upcoming elections in Tbilisi and Yerevan.

According to human rights activists, at least 200 other Armenian prisoners remain in Azerbaijan. Hopefully, the success of these days will not remain an isolated event. The restitution took place on the evening of June 12, and the Armenian government handed over the relocation papers for 97,000 anti-tank and anti-personnel mines.

According to Garibašvili himself, “the negotiations began a month ago, after a few phone calls with the president of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliev and Pašinyan. I think it is an unprecedented opportunity for Georgia, which can mediate between the strategic partners of the South Caucasus”. Garibašvili has promised further efforts from his country to achieve stability in the region.

Political scientist Gelja Vasadze of the Tbilisi Center for Strategic Analysis believes the role of Turkey should not be underestimated against the background of these negotiations: “Garibašvili also visited Ankara, not only Baku and Yerevan. As the Georgian Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani communicated, after a recent conversation with Erdogan, Georgia has taken a more active role in resolving the Caucasian conflicts”. In this case the Turks would have acted in harmony with the US and the European Union.

The returned prisoners had not received any sentences from the Azerbaijani side, but had remained in the hands of the enemy after the most heated phases of the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. The crisis between Armenia and Azerbaijan remains quite acute on the southern borders of the two countries, and the final outcome is still very uncertain. Georgia will be able to continue to play a leading role, also depending on the interests of the candidates and political groups competing in the upcoming elections, with the support of the great powers.

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