*** ----> Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to take steps towards normalisation | THE DAILY TRIBUNE | KINGDOM OF BAHRAIN

Armenia, Azerbaijan agree to take steps towards normalisation

AFP | Yerevan                                                         

The Daily Tribune – www.newsofbahrain.com

Arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan said Thursday they would exchange prisoners of war and work towards normalising their relations, in a joint statement hailed by the European Union and the United States as a break-through after three decades of conflict over disputed territory.

The Caucasus neighbours have long fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Azerbaijan reclaimed after a lightning offensive against Armenian separatists in September. Both countries have said a peace agreement could be signed by the end of the year, but peace talks -- mediated separately by the European Union, the United States, and Russia -- have seen little progress.

The two sides agreed in Thursday’s joint statement to seize “a historical chance to achieve a long-awaited peace in the region”. “The two countries reconfirm their intention to normalize relations and to reach the peace treaty,” the statement said. Baku will free 32 Armenian prisoners of war, while Yerevan will release two Azerbaijani servicemen, according to the statement. They also agreed to continue discussions on “more confidence building measures, effective in the near future”.

As a sign of good faith, Armenia announced it was withdrawing its bid to host UN-led climate talks next year, paving the way for Azerbaijan’s candidacy. The annual negotiations on fighting climate change, known as COPs, rotate among regions and were due to be hosted by an Eastern European country in 2024 after this year’s COP28 in Dubai. “As a sign of good gesture, the Republic of Armenia supports the bid of the Republic of Azerbaijan to host (COP29) by withdrawing its own candidacy,” the statement read.