Parliament Speaker Alen Simonyan, center

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — A senior Armenian official on Monday, December 5, accused Azerbaijan of planning to close the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

“We see the Azerbaijani side’s intention to close the Lachin corridor,” said Alen Simonyan, the Armenian parliament speaker and a leading member of the ruling Civil Contract party.

“The Lachin corridor is the only full-fledged road of humanitarian significance for the livelihood of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians,” he added during a regular session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Simonyan made the claim two days after a section of the road outside the Azerbaijani-controlled Karabakh town of Shushi was blocked by a large group of Azerbaijani officials for about four hours. As of Monday afternoon, the Armenian government did not officially react to the incident.

Baku claimed that the officials from the Azerbaijani ministries of environment and economy blocked the road section because they wanted to investigate “illegal” mining activity in Karabakh and its “ecological consequences.” It said that they and Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in Karabakh agreed to work out a “roadmap to environmental monitoring” in the mining area. The peacekeepers did not publicly confirm that.

Karabakh’s environmental protection agency insisted later on Saturday that it has been properly monitoring the work of a local gold mining company. At the same time, it expressed readiness to invite international experts to conduct an “additional environmental risk assessment” at the Karabakh gold mine.

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“I am convinced that there is no ecological problem there,” Armen Khachatryan, a senior Armenian lawmaker, said on Monday.

“Such provocations can always be expected from Azerbaijan,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “We must be careful and attentive but not alarmist. We must be ready to cope with all challenges that could arise later on or have already arisen.”

Khachatryan noted that early this year Azerbaijan blocked gas supply from Armenia to Karabakh for several weeks.

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