Azerbaijan, Baku / corr Trend A.Gasimova, E.Huseynova / Leo Platvoed, a co-rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on POWs and missing persons in the South Caucasus, has called upon Azerbaijan and Armenia to co-operate in uncovering the fate of the persons who have gone missing during the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.
As a result of the armed conflicts in the territory of the South Caucasus, which broke out after the collapse of the former USSR, the whereabouts of 7,538 persons is still unknown. Some 4,604 persons are considered to be missing in Azerbaijan, 947 in Armenia, 1,763 in Georgia and 197 in Abkhazia. The data was publicized by the co-rapporteur during a PACE permanent commission meeting in Belgrade on 24 May.
In an interview by telephone, Platvoed stressed the importance of close co-operation of the Azerbaijani and Armenian authorities, both with the international organizations and local institutions established in those countries. "There is a commission set up to search for the missing persons in Nagorno-Karabakh, but it co-operating with Armenia, not with Azerbaijan," he added.
The Azerbaijani State Commission on POWs, Missing Persons and Hostages announced in April that there are 4,499 missing persons in Azerbaijan. Over the past 6 months the fate of 70 persons has been identified, 36 of them having died as a result of armed action and were identified by their parents.
In March Bernhard Clazen, the Chairman of the International Group on Missing Persons, POWs and Captives, said at an interview with Trend that the international community is prepared to assist the conflicting sides to resolve their humanitarian problems and must advise what assistance is required from the international community. He also recollected that at the last meeting of the State Commissions on missing persons of Azerbaijan and Armenia organized in Tbilisi 2005, no appeal was submitted by either side on the organization of the meeting.
The conflict between the two countries of South Caucasus appeared in 1988 due to the territorial claims of Armenia against Azerbaijan. Armenia has occupied 20% of the Azerbaijani lands including Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven Districts of the country surrounding it. Since 1992 to the present time, these territories have been under the occupation of the Armenian Forces. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a cease-fire agreement at which time the active hostilities ended. The Co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group ( Russia, France and USA) are presently holding peaceful negotiations.