Politics 20:21 26/10/2020 Armenia

ICRC steps up efforts to start working immediately after Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire

Panorama.am has interviewed Zara Amatuni, the spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) office in Yerevan, over contacts with prisoners of war and possible work after a ceasefire is established in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).

Panorama.am: Today, on October 26, at 8am local time, the humanitarian ceasefire came into effect. Have the bodies of killed soldiers been retrieved from any part of the frontline since then?

Zara Amatuni: I cannot say anything about such activities at the moment.

Panorama.am: How many relatives of Armenian POWs have applied to the Armenian Red Cross office since the start of hostilities?

Zara Amatuni: I can't provide any data, since we share the information we have with the families and the relevant authorities, they are not subject to disclosure.

Panorama.am: The question does not concern the provision of personal data.

Zara Amatuni: We don’t share numbers as well.

Panorama.am: Apart from captured soldiers Areg Sargsyan and Narek Amirjanyan, have the other prisoners of war have contacts, phone calls with their relatives?

Zara Amatuni: -We keep in touch with all the families who have applied to us.

Panorama.am: Has the representatives of the Red Cross office in Baku visited other prisoners of war besides the three Armenian POWs?

Zara Amatuni: I cannot confirm any other visits; you can also write about the woman whom we have visited as well (referring to Azniv Baghdasaryan).

Panorama.am: Azerbaijan announced a few days ago that it was ready to unilaterally hand over some of the bodies of victims to Armenia through the mediation of the ICRC. Did Azerbaijan actually make such an offer?

Zara Amatuni: You see, different proposals and options are being discussed with the parties, of course, it’s up to the party to announce about an option, but I have to say that I can’t confirm it. I just can say that there are proposals, only when we reach a final agreement can we announce that this is the option in which we participate or support.

Panorama.am: Were there any proposals on the swap of POWs?

Zara Amatuni: I can’t unveil the content of our discussions, they are, of course, aimed at carrying out humanitarian actions, but of course the only need here is to observe the ceasefire and to provide security guarantees for teams that will work on both sides.

Panorama.am: Is there no such guarantees at the moment?

Zara Amatuni: So far, no progress has been achieved in terms of starting operations.

Panorama.am: Did the parties provide the office with information on the number of killed servicemen, the bodies of whom were not taken off the battlefield?

Zara Amatuni: Unfortunately, we cannot share any data at this moment. Discussions are underway.

Panorama.am: Does the ICRC possess any data on the number of prisoners of war and captives in Armenia and Azerbaijan at the moment?

Zara Amatuni: We don’t have specific data. We collect data and apply to the parties simultaneously, asking them to provide the data of all persons from September 27 so that we can visit them in accordance with the obligations of international humanitarian law, which the parties have undertaken.

Panorama.am: Is there any information about the missing persons?

Zara Amatuni: The relatives of those people from whom they have had no news for a long time and cannot find them apply to us. We register the cases, try to obtain information and make clarifications, unfortunately, it is a difficult process, taking into account the fact that the hostilities are going on and it’s hard to get clear information. We register the data of these individuals so that we can further clarify them with the authorities. You know, at this point a missing person may be found or any news may emerge about him. At the moment we are stepping up our internal resources, which will allow us to work efficiently.

Panorama.am: Does the Red Cross office have representatives in Artsakh now? If security guarantees are provided, will they start humanitarian actions immediately?

Zara Amatuni: Since 1992, the Red Cross has had a mission in Nagorno-Karabakh. At the same time, we have a team on the other side of the contact line, in the city of Barda, Azerbaijan, which allows us to get to work rather quickly as soon as we reach an agreement. The consent of the parties involved must be on both sides of the line of contact, so that we, as participants of the operation, be safe and secure and for the operation not to be disrupted, which, of course, is crucial and should have been carried out a long time ago. Our existing teams have also been joined by experts who will work with both our representatives and the public in the next few months.

Source Panorama.am
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