Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenians demand the reopening of the Lachin corridor
It is the only transport artery linking Armenia and the pro-Armenian enclave on Azerbaijani territory. Baku claims that the blockade is carried out by ecological groups. Yerevan calls for the intervention of Russian peacekeeping troops. Armenians appeal to the UN international court.
Moscow (AsiaNews) - Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pašinyan said that Azerbaijan's continued blockade of the Lachin corridor makes the establishment of an international fact-finding mission essential. The passage is the only transport artery between Armenia and the unrecognised republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, a pro-Armenian enclave on Azerbaijani territory.
The blockade has been in place for almost a month now and there is no sign of Baku loosening its grip, as Pašinyan noted. This is why Armenians expect 'more concrete and specific steps' from the international community, especially from Russia, which has undertaken to control transport along the corridor with its own peacekeeping forces.
This is one of the points of the trilateral agreement signed on 9 November 2020 by the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan, and confirmed on 11 January and 26 November 2021, and further specified at the quadrilateral meeting in Prague on 6 October 2022.
At the end of December, Armenia even appealed to the UN International Tribunal to force Azerbaijan to unblock the crossing. The appeal points out that around 120,000 ethnic Armenians live in Nagorno-Karabakh, who lack essential supplies and medicine. The request concerns the application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as confirmed by the court itself.
According to the Azerbaijanis' official version, the road to Nagorno-Karabakh has been blocked since 12 December due to 'protest actions by ecological activists, who take action against the illegal exploitation of natural resources'.
They are demanding access to the gold mine in Gyzylbulag, and the copper and molybdenum mine in Demirl, where they claim Armenians are illegally mining. Yerevan insists on the increasingly dramatic humanitarian situation of the local population due to the actions organised by Baku.
On 27 December, Russian President Putin discussed the Lachin issue with Pašinyan in St. Petersburg, after accusations of Russia's non-compliance with its monitoring commitment. The Kremlin reiterated that peacekeepers can act to resolve the situation, but only in the event that both sides agree, and in any case Moscow is 'seriously concerned' about the turn of events.
Russian Defence Minister Šojgu confirms that he is in constant contact with Armenians and Azeris on the ground, trying to reopen the passage to transport vehicles, which has actually only happened for a few ambulances and two to three trucks on the road between Stepanakert and Goris.
The chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the National Assembly of Nagorno-Karabakh, Vagram Balayan, explains that the Azeris continue to make maximalist demands, without conceding any form of compromise.
Unwilling to recognise 'the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh and the people of Artsakh', Baku is constantly imposing on the representatives of the separatist republic, but 'we can only discuss with them on an equal footing', says Balayan: 'The Azeris actually do not want any negotiations, they just want us to disappear from history'.
Contacts with Azerbaijan, although not officially, are entrusted to the secretary of the Stepanakert Security Council, Vitalij Balasanyan.
The Karabakh Armenians insist that the 'ecological' claims about the exploitation of the mines are completely artificial, since they are private enterprises and not owned by either Azeris or Armenians. As Balayan assures Balayan, 'it is not activists or students who are blocking the road, it is an action organised directly by the Baku leadership', which will only reopen the corridor that Azerbaijanis call 'Zangezur's' only when all Armenians in the area have been evacuated or deported.
Azerbaijan considers the appeal to the UN as 'yet another provocation by Armenia against the territorial integrity of our country'. However, Yerevan calls for at least allowing a humanitarian mission under the auspices of the UN, pending clarification of the issue at the highest level.