Nationwide rally on December 25 in Artsakh, Stepanakert, attended by 60-70,000 people

By Nelly Baghdasaryan

Special to the Mirror-Spectator

If the Lachin corridor is a way of life for the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), the only way of communication with the outside world, then for Azerbaijan it is a political playing card.

After the trilateral agreement of the Russian Federation, the Republic of Armenia and Azerbaijan of November 9, 2020, Azerbaijan is pursuing a policy of “creeping occupation” with respect to the remaining 3,000 square kilometers of the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (before the 2020 war, the territory of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic was 12 thousand square kilometers), which was expressed in periodic violations of the truce, local military escalation, minor territorial occupations, information terrorism, acts of killing civilians. During and after the escalation of August 1-3, 2022, provoked by Azerbaijan, it was clear that Azerbaijan would work against the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, using the Lachin corridor as a playing card.

Map of the blocked Lachin corridor

The phases and directions of the Azerbaijani information policy that prepared the blocking of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan were as follows: Starting from March 2022, and then from October-November, the Azerbaijani side has periodically spread deception that the Armenian side allegedly imports weapons through the Lachin corridor; At the same time, after November 20th, the Azerbaijani Defense Army periodically spread deception that the self-defense forces of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic were allegedly shooting in the direction of the Azerbaijani positions of Shushi; In late November and early December, the Azerbaijani side also applied another false thesis, according to which the commander of the Russian peacekeeping forces in Nagorno-Karabakh, A. Volkov, and the newly appointed State Minister of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Ruben Vardanyan, allegedly “illegally” exploited the Kashen gold deposit of the Martakert region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

International Committee of the Red Cross car passes through the corridor blocked by Azerbaijani “eco-activists”

There was no doubt that Azerbaijan was preparing a major provocation in the direction of the Lachin corridor on the basis of this false information. On December 3, a group of Azerbaijani so-called “eco-activists” closed the Lachin corridor. The so-called “eco-activists,” and in fact, under their name, former and current representatives of the security services or the armed forces of Azerbaijan, and members of state-funded public organizations, obeying a clear state decree, demanded to stop the so-called “illegal” exploitation of minerals on the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, which allegedly led to environmental and other disasters. Clarifications of the further events are presented in the statement of the President of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Araik Harutyunyan, dated December 23: “As for the Azerbaijani side’s demand to visit the Kashen field, the reality is that on December 3 this year, having blocked the only road connecting Artsakh with Armenia for the first time, Azerbaijan, through Russian peacekeepers, handed over written proposals to the Artsakh authorities that had little to do with environmental problems and were absolutely unacceptable for Artsakh.” Araik Harutyunyan also stressed the constructiveness of the NKR authorities, noting that “the Artsakh side has shown a constructive approach by transmitting through the peacekeepers to the Azerbaijani side those proposals for which they will be ready to allow the visit of environmentalists to the field. Azerbaijan did not implement the agreement, and consequently did not enter the field. After that, it began a long-term road closure, not only creating serious humanitarian problems for 120,000 residents of Artsakh, but also grossly violating numerous norms of international law and the provisions of the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020.” It is also important that the authorities of the self-proclaimed NKR appealed to the UN within the framework of the Environment Program (UNEP) with a request to send an international monitoring group to the territory of the NKR and adjacent territories.

A group of citizens of the self-proclaimed NKR go towards Shushi with a demand to open a corridor for the transfer of Russian peacekeepers

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Azerbaijans Blockade the Cause of a Humanitarian Catastrophe

120,000 residents of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, including 30,000 children, found themselves under a prolonged blockade due to the closure of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan. More than 1,100 people, including 270 children, remained on the other side of the corridor in Armenia, as they are unable to return and reunite with their families in Nagorno-Karabakh. As a result of the blockade, the communities of Lisagor, Metz Shen, Hin Shen, Yeghtsahogh of Shushi district were completely isolated and cut off from the rest of the NKR and Armenia.

A group of citizens of the self-proclaimed NKR go towards Shushi with a demand to open a corridor for the transfer of Russian peacekeepers

Since the gas pipelines running from Armenia to Artsakh stretched along the former Lachin corridor, which has remained under the control of Azerbaijan since August 2022, Azerbaijan, in parallel with the blockade, prevented gas supply to the NKR for 3 days. The corridor, being the only communication route connecting the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic with the outside world, served the daily transportation of 400 tons of food and other essential goods from Armenia to Artsakh. After the blockade of the corridor, at the time of writing /December 28/, 6800 tons of cargo were not actually transported. On December 25, the ICRC transported 10 tons of humanitarian cargo from Armenia to Artsakh. With the mediation of the ICRC, a number of extremely serious patients, including a 4-month-old child, were transferred to specialized clinics in Armenia. Medical supplies are running out. Planned operations have been temporarily suspended in hospitals. After the blockade, there are not enough supplies to care for children born in Artsakh. Along with the shortage of food and basic necessities, there is also the problem of diesel fuel.

In the first hours of the corridor’s closing, a photo was taken showing civilian passenger cars

What Is the Responsibility of the International Community?

The fact that in the 21st century a state can be blockaded by a neighboring state and remain unpunished defies any logic and has no justification. According to international law, the fact of non-recognition of the state does not matter either. In this case, the international community should not have declarative practice; the international instruments of punishing Azerbaijan should be used immediately.

In this picture taken on December 3, the Lachin corridor was closed for the first time for a few hours

The blockade of the Lachin corridor and the problem of the blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh have reached an international level. The international progressive community and international human rights organizations committed to democratic values and considering human rights a priority have issued statements on the immediate unblocking of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan. The issue was discussed in the context of international and regional security. The discourse used allows us to say that a new level of internationalization of the problem of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict has been recorded; this was also expressed at the meeting of the UN Security Council on December 20, 2022, when the situation created in the Lachin corridor on the basis of the statement of the Republic of Armenia was discussed. In fact, in all the speeches of the UN Security Council, Azerbaijan’s unblocking of Nagorno-Karabakh was emphasized as an urgent measure. In the speeches of the UN Security Council, there was a reference to the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, as a source document for overcoming the current situation. Particularly important was the statement of the continuing obstacles in the Lachin/Berdzor corridor and their severe humanitarian consequences. The role of the Russian Federation and, accordingly, responsibility in overcoming the crisis was emphasized.

Shortage of medicines in pharmacies in Artsakh

My comments on the UN Security Council discussion are available at the following link:

In the conditions of the ongoing blockade of the NKR, it is very important that the discussions of the UN Security Council continue and practical measures to punish Azerbaijan are applied on the basis of a single statement.

The Real Goals of Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan speaks the language of ultimatums, in order to achieve greater concessions under the influence of the threat of war. The Azerbaijani-Turkish tandem is trying to achieve an extraterritorial solution in Zangezur through pressure, and the Azerbaijani narrative “corridor in exchange for corridor” is used regarding the Lachin corridor.

During the demonstration, an “eco-activist” shows the sign of the Gray Wolves terrorist organization

Azerbaijan is trying to achieve full control over the Lachin corridor, which means full economic and political control over Nagorno-Karabakh, with an invented agenda of “environmental protection” and “conflict over mines.” For example, the director of the Turan news agency Mehman Aliyev noted that control over the corridor means control over the whole of Nagorno-Karabakh. It is noteworthy that, according to the trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, the corridor is in the area of responsibility of the peacekeepers of the Russian Federation.

On December 28, the citizens of Artsakh are heading to the airport, which is not used for the people of Artsakh. They want to meet with the command of the Russian peacekeepers stationed there

Azerbaijan openly accuses the Russian peacekeeping forces of contributing to the militarization of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to oust peacekeeping.

The Azerbaijani authorities at the highest level, including the highest rostrum of the UN, are voicing threats and demands for resignation against the elected authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh. In particular, President of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Araik Harutyunyan and newly appointed State Minister Ruben Vardanyan are being targeted. This should be considered as Azerbaijan’s first attempt to deinstitutionalize the NKR.

For the past two years, Azerbaijan has been waging a transit war by means of a transit blockade through roads, tunnels and international airports. Now Azerbaijan has moved to the second stage of the transit war, the purpose of which is to penetrate into 3,000 square kilometers of the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. It is a fact that no international structure can guarantee that the international airports built in the vicinity of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic will not be used by Azerbaijan and Turkey for military purposes.

What Standing and Agenda Does the Self-Proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Have?

Any proposal that could lead to the integration of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic within the framework of the Constitution of Azerbaijan is unacceptable to the people of the self-proclaimed NKR. Such a development of events in the issue of status predetermines an ontological catastrophe for the people of Artsakh. From 2020 until today, Azerbaijan has applied a policy of ethnic cleansing and mass forced eviction of the population of Artsakh against the self-proclaimed NKR by creating life-threatening conditions. Azerbaijan’s actions can be included in the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention of Genocide.

The population of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, which is under total blockade, appealed to the international community with a message of respect for self-determination through peaceful and civilized actions. The concept of “recognition for the sake of salvation” was the basis for the nationwide rallies in Stepanakert on October 30, 2022 and December 25, 2022 with the participation of 60-70 000 people.

Nelly Baghdasaryan

(Nelly Baghdasaryan is Adviser to the Artsakh Republic President on International Relations.)

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