Azerbaijan is barring an Armenian humanitarian convoy from entering the blockaded region of Nagorno-Karabakh, according to latest reports.
The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh, called “Artsakh” by Armenians, is an ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.
For the past seven months, it has been blockaded by Azerbaijan forces and, as supplies run out, observers say the situation is becoming increasingly desperate for the 120,000 inhabitants.
As of the afternoon of July 27, the latest reports from Armenian sources say that a convoy of 19 trucks is stuck at the border town of Kornidzor. The trucks are said to contain desperately needed supplies of flour, cooking oil, sugar and other basic foodstuffs.
The lorries are currently waiting to move through the Lachin Corridor, the only connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and the rest of the world.
The Azerbaijani regime condemned the convoy as being a “provocation” on the part of Armenia. Officials insisted that the Lachin Corridor is the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan and that authorities in the Armenian capital Yerevan should renounce all claims to the region.
Azerbaijan is led by the authoritarian President Ilham Aliyev, who has been condemned by human rights organisations for actions such as the recent jailing of the opposition leader Ali Aliyev.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh. The first ended in the early 1990s and resulted in Armenia capturing the region and proclaiming it the unrecognised “Republic of Artsakh”.
In 2020, Azerbaijan struck back and managed to surround the Armenian enclave before the conflict ended in a Russian-brokered peace deal.
While the Lachin Corridor was supposed to remain open under the control of Russian peacekeepers, the pass was blocked in December 2022 by so-called Azerbaijani “environmental protestors”, who were widely considered to be acting under the orders of the Aliyev regime.
Azerbaijan then set up official check-points on the road, which further choked the flow of supplies into the Armenian enclave.
Officials in the Azerbaijan capital Baku insist they are not blockading Nagorno-Karabakh. One Azerbaijani MP claimed Armenians are free to move through the corridor. Other commentators have taken to Twitter to criticise the situation.
Your daily reminder that Laçın road is the sovereign land of Azerbaijan & is open for free movement of ethnic Armenians without any obstacle.
We have not seen yet a free movement of Azerbaijanis to travel to Naxçıvan via Zangazur corridor.
🇦🇲must unblock the Zangazur corridor! pic.twitter.com/mehiPWHGZx
— Tural Ganjali (@TGanjaliyev) July 26, 2023
One pointed out that the passage of a few cars through the Lachin Corridor was no counterbalance to the blocking of a humanitarian convoy.
Azerbaijani state media shows a handful of Armenians passing the Lachin corridor with ICRC and again claims they have "free passage," likely in an attempt to distract from AZ preventing a convoy of trucks carrying much-needed humanitarian aid into Nagorno-Karabakh yesterday. pic.twitter.com/ski4FGjkmC
— Lindsey Snell (@LindseySnell) July 27, 2023
The move was also condemned by the European Union. On July 26, Josep Borrell, the EU’s High Representative and de facto foreign minister, called on Azerbaijan to fully open the corridor in accordance with a ruling by the International Court of Justice.
Borrell noted that “medical supplies and essential goods are in short supply or have already run out” and that this would have “dire consequences for the local population”.
This echoes statements made by local authorities from Nagorno-Karabakh earlier.
On July 24, Arayik Harutyunyan, the President of Nagorno-Karabakh, warned that his community was facing “imminent ethnic cleansing!”
With the siege ongoing, several international organisations have warned that ethnic Armenian inhabitants in the region are in danger of genocide.