Azerbaijan said it has discovered what it claimed is a mass grave of its soldiers allegedly executed by Armenian separatist forces during the 1990s war over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Baku and Yerevan fought two wars – in 2020 and in the 1990s – over the contested mountainous region, which is an Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan.
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“A mass grave of Azerbaijani servicemen tortured and executed during the first Karabakh war was discovered in the village of Edilli,” Hikmet Hajiyev, the foreign policy adviser to President Ilham Aliyev, said on Wednesday on Twitter.
He said 4,000 Azerbaijani soldiers and civilians remain missing from the war in the 1990s. “Armenia refuses to disclose the locations of mass graves,” he said.
Namig Efendiyev of the state commission for prisoners of war told the AFP news agency that “25 human remains have been discovered since February at the mass grave”.
Baku made the announcement days after Armenia accused Azerbaijani troops of committing war crimes during deadly border clashes last month.
In September, at least 286 people were killed on both sides before a US-brokered truce ended the worst clashes since the neighbours’ 2020 war.
On Sunday, Armenia’s foreign ministry said, “Numerous videos regularly [published] by Azerbaijani users on social media demonstrate the war crimes,” including extrajudicial killings and torture of Armenian POWs and desecration of corpses.
Azerbaijan said on the same day that its military prosecutor’s office had launched an investigation into alleged war crimes committed by Baku’s forces.
On Tuesday, Azerbaijan freed 17 Armenian prisoners of war after US mediation.
The war in 2020
The six-week war in 2020 killed more than 6,500 soldiers from both sides and ended with a Russian-brokered ceasefire.
Under the deal, Armenia ceded swathes of territory in Nagorno-Karabakh that it had controlled for decades, and Moscow deployed about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to oversee the fragile truce.
With Moscow increasingly isolated on the world stage since its February invasion of Ukraine, the United States and the European Union have taken a leading role in mediating the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation process.
On Sunday, the foreign ministers of the two countries met in Geneva, where they began drafting the text of a future peace treaty.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict killed about 30,000 people.