Armenia agrees to return 4 villages to Azerbaijan

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Armenia agreed to return four abandoned border villages to Azerbaijan in what both countries described as an important milestone as the bitter South Caucasus rivals edge toward a peace deal.

“Armenia has agreed to return four villages that were under occupation since the early 1990s,” Azerbaijan Foreign Ministry spokesman Aykhan Hajizade said in a statement on social media Friday.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the preliminary agreement was reached during the eighth round of talks toward defining the frontier on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Azerbaijan has been demanding the return of the villages as a condition for a peace agreement after more than three decades of conflict, mostly centred on the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The preliminary agreement involves the villages of Baghanis Ayrum, Asagi Eskipara, Heyrimli and Kizilhacili, according to the statement.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought several bloody wars in recent years.