Azerbaijan releases 10 more detained Armenian service members after EU talks

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Dec. 19 (UPI) — Azerbaijan released 10 more detained Armenian servicemembers Sunday, a month after the two countries agreed to a ceasefire while the countries work to settle remaining issues stemming from the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Officials in Azerbaijan had previously released 10 service members earlier this month as part of a deal mediated by Russia after they were detained on Nov. 16, the Azerbaijan State Security Service said in a statement at the time. In exchange for the prisoners, Armenia provided Azerbaijan with maps to mines placed on the Azerbaijani side of the border.

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The latest exchange Sunday was made with support from the European Union, U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price said on Twitter.

“We urge the full and expeditious release of all remaining detainees, exchange of remains, and accounting for missing persons. We stress the importance of humane treatment of detainees in accordance with international obligations,” Price tweeted.

Toivo Klaar, a special representative with the EU, shared photos of the service members arriving home and called the exchange an “important gesture” by Azerbaijan in addressing humanitarian issues.

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“The [EU] will continue to work with both countries to build on the successful meetings of @eucopresident with @presidentaz and @NikolPashinyan,” Klaar tweeted.

Azerbaijan and Armenia suffered an escalation of violent clashes in November that received condemnation at the time from Secretary of StateAntony Blinken. The violence was the largest flare-up in the conflict between the two countries since a brief war last year.

“The United States is deeply concerned about reports of intensive fighting today between Armenia and Azerbaijan. We urge both sides to take immediate concrete steps to reduce tensions and avoid further escalation,” Blinken said in a statement last month.