YEREVAN: Arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan have said they will exchange prisoners of war and work towards normalising relations, a breakthrough that has been hailed internationally.
The Caucasus neighbours have long fought over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Azerbaijan reclaimed after a lightning offensive against Armenian separatists in September.
Peace talks -- mediated separately by the European Union, the United States and Russia -- had seen little progress but both countries still say a peace agreement could be signed by the end of this year.
The two sides agreed in a joint statement late on Thursday to seize “a historical chance to achieve a long-awaited peace in the region”. “The two countries reconfirm their intention to normalize relations and to reach the peace treaty,” the statement said.
Baku will free 32 Armenian prisoners of war, while Yerevan will release two Azerbaijani servicemen, according to the statement. They also agreed to continue discussions on “more confidence building measures, effective in the near future”.
As a sign of good faith, Armenia said it was withdrawing its bid to host UN-led climate talks next year, paving the way for Azerbaijan´s candidacy.