US calls out Azerbaijan, demands immediate release of detained Armenian soldiers

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The United States Thursday called on Azerbaijan to “immediately” release all detained Armenian soldiers and reminded Baku of its obligations to treat all detainees “humanely.”

State Department Spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “concerned by recent developments along the international border between Armenia and Azerbaijan, including the detention of several Armenian soldiers by Azerbaijani forces.”

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Tensions between Yerevan and Baku have increased in recent days after relative calm compared to the fighting that led to more than 6,000 deaths last fall during a two-month battle over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azeri forces launched an offensive to push Armenian forces out of the two, which is technically inside Azerbaijan but had been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994.

Armenia took a pounding as Turkey quickly intervened to provide Azerbaijan with its highly effective drones, and a ceasefire was brokered by Russia shortly after.

But following more tensions this week and the reported capture of six Armenian troops, the US called on both sides to “urgently and peacefully resolve this incident.”

Price also called on “Azerbaijan to release immediately all prisoners of war and other detainees, and we remind Azerbaijan of its obligations under international humanitarian law to treat all detainees humanely.”

Price said Armenia and Azerbaijan needed to reposition their forces back to those held on May 11, based on the initial ceasefire.

As for a peace negotiation process, Price said the US was prepared to help. “The United States urges the sides to return as soon as possible to substantive negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to achieve a long-term political settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” Price added.

Read more: Armenia says six soldiers captured by Azerbaijan

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