Armenian Catholicos slams as inhuman Nagorno-Karabakh blockade
For more than a week, Azerbaijan has shut down a road that is the only link between Armenia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, preventing thousands of Armenians from rejoining their families or receiving food and medical care. Pope Francis mentioned the issue in yesterday’s Angelus. For Catholicos Karekin II of the Armenians, “Mere words of condemnation will not be enough”.
Erevan (AsiaNews) – For more than a week, self-styled Azerbaijani eco-activists have been blocking the only road connecting Armenia to the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, which controls part of the Nagorno-Karabakh region, ostensibly as a protest against the operations of a local gold mine.
“It is with troubled and worried heart that in the past few days our eyes have been turned to the Armenian region of Artsakh," said yesterday Catholicos Karekin II of All Armenians during a religious service.
For the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the blockade is “pure provocation” on “false pretexts”. Pope Francis himself mentioned the situation in yesterday’s Angelus, when he expressed "concern" for "the humanitarian conditions of the population”.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region has an Armenian majority but is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. For several decades, the two countries have been at loggerheads over the enclave, Armenia backed by Russia and Azerbaijan by Turkey.
The latest war broke out in 2020 following an attack by Azerbaijan, ending after 44 days with a truce brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Some 120,000 Armenians, including 30,000 children, are now isolated, unable to reunite with relatives or receive medical care, "pushing the people of Artsakh towards a humanitarian catastrophe," Karekin II lamented.
Last week several Karabakh students travelled to Yerevan for this year’s Junior Eurovision Song Contest, which was held in the Armenian capital. Since the blockade was instituted, they have been unable to cross the border and go home.
The Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor, which links the cities of Stepanakert (capital of Artsakh) and Goris (Syunik province), is used to bring supplies to the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh, including food to medicine.
Azerbaijan recently cut off gas supply for more than 50 hours.
"Today Azerbaijan is trying to empty Artsakh of its people by spreading terror. It is unacceptable that in today's world – which recognises as a supreme value the right of every person to dignity and freedom – such inhuman actions against an entire people can take place and be tolerated", said the Catholicos of All Armenians.
"Mere words of condemnation will not be enough to curb Azerbaijan's expansionist ambitions and stop its hostility. The Holy Armenian Apostolic Church will continue its efforts so that the international community, friendly states, sister Christian Churches, international and religious organisations will support Artsakh and its Armenian people.”
The Armenian Catholic Patriarchate also condemned the road blockade, an action that constitutes "a clear violation of human rights, inconsistent with the three-party declaration issued on 9 November 2020.”
Back in September, relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan became tense again; according to some observers, the issue could further degenerate into a new conflict, especially given Russia’s involvement in Ukraine.