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Red Cross Helps Transfer Remains of Fighters Killed in Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

By VOA News October 29, 2020

The International Committee of the Red Cross said Thursday it helped transfer the remains of fighters killed in the conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan to Armenia.

The ICRC said in a news release it participated in the humanitarian operation as a neutral intermediary after an agreement was reached between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

The ICRC statement said it also helped with Wednesday's handover of an elderly man and woman who were detained because of the conflict. Another elderly man was not able to travel at the time of the transfer, the ICRC said.

"Even in the deadliest of conflicts, the ICRC, with our long-standing record as a neutral intermediary, sees how shared humanitarian objectives can help parties find common ground, whether through the transfer or return of prisoners, the evacuation of wounded, cross-line humanitarian activities, or the respectful handover of mortal remains," ICRC Eurasia Regional Director Martin Schuepp said in a statement.

International humanitarian law requires participants in a conflict to try to accommodate requests to return the remains of deceased people to their home country or to their relatives, the statement added.

Also Thursday, Gerardo Moloeznik, head of the Red Cross mission monitoring the conflict, reportedly called on the warring parties to stop shelling civilians and to respect international law in the conflict that has killed nearly 1,000 people since the violence erupted September 27.

"This is very important. They have to spare the lives of civilians, civilian infrastructure, because there have been situations in which they have been using heavy artillery in populated areas," Moloeznik said in an interview with AFP in Barda, Azerbaijan.

The ongoing fighting is the most intense escalation of the decades-old conflict over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region since a 1994 cease-fire.

The predominantly ethnic Armenian territory declared its independence from Azerbaijan in 1991 during the collapse of the Soviet Union, sparking a war that claimed the lives of as many as 30,000 people. That independence, however, is not internationally recognized.

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