Speech delivered by Helena Dalli, Commissioner for Equality, on the prisoners of war in the aftermath of the most recent conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan
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Thank you Madam President and thank you Members of the European Parliament for raising the issue of prisoners of war and other detainees in the aftermath of the 2020 hostilities.
We took good note of the letter of more than 120 Members of this House on the same issue.
The European Union has taken a clear position: we have repeatedly called on both parties to fully implement the ceasefire agreement. We have also called on them to exchange prisoners of war and to release all remaining detainees, regardless of the circumstances of their capture, in accordance with international humanitarian law and the ceasefire agreement.
The release of all Armenian detainees is essential for building confidence and trust and would be an important political gesture. We welcomed the release of five Armenian detainees on the 29th of January and of three on the 4th of May. We insist that all remaining detainees be released without further delay.
The European Union expects both parties to cooperate not only on the return of detainees, but also on other important humanitarian issues. The recovery and repatriation of remains of the missing should continue. Urgent and decisive steps are needed on the exchange of information necessary for the conduct of humanitarian demining, including the sharing of any available maps of minefields to enable return to areas devastated by conflict. To defuse tensions and allow societies to progress towards normalisation, it is also crucially important to refrain from inflammatory public rhetoric.
The European Union has called for accountability for any violation of international humanitarian law. Allegations of torture, ill-treatment or execution of captives and any other war crimes that might have been committed during the recent hostilities must be thoroughly investigated. The European Union stands ready to contribute to international and independent justice mechanisms and to support an independent investigation into such claims.
The cessation of hostilities and addressing the range of immediate humanitarian issues is only a first step to end the long-lasting Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Renewed efforts for a negotiated, comprehensive and sustainable settlement are needed. The European Union fully supports the OSCE Minsk Group led by its Co-Chairs. And we stand ready to contribute in the shaping of a durable and comprehensive settlement, including through support for stabilisation and confidence-building measures.
Link to the video: https://audiovisual.ec.europa.eu/en/video/I-205808