Arayik Harutyunyan, leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, Stepanakert, Aug 6, 2023

Artsakh Leader Sees Risk Of Renewed War With Azerbaijan

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — Azerbaijan seeks to renounce a 2020 Russian-brokered ceasefire agreement with Armenia and renew hostilities against Nagorno-Karabakh, the region’s ethnic Armenian leader warned over the weekend.

In an August 6 interview with Karabakh’s Public Television Arayik Harutyunyan also cautioned Armenia against taking any steps that would “question the self-determination” of Karabakh Armenians.

Speaking about the current blockade of Karabakh by Azerbaijan Harutyunyan claimed that it was already a siege warfare employed by Baku.

“Azerbaijan continues to exert pressure to extract maximum [concessions]. Azerbaijan is seeking to hold Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians in some sense hostage, while simultaneously committing genocide and putting pressure on the Armenian authorities and international actors in terms of having a more privileged version of the Zangezur road,” the Karabakh leader said, referring to what Armenians perceive as Baku’s plans to get an extraterritorial corridor to its western Nakhichevan exclave via the southern part of Armenia.

Armenia insists that a road via its Syunik province (also called Zangezur in both Armenia and Azerbaijan), which is part of the 2020 ceasefire agreement, should remain under Armenian sovereignty. In contrast, Yerevan stresses that the Lachin corridor must remain under the control of Russian peacekeepers in accordance with the terms of the trilateral statement that put an end to a 44-day Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Nagorno-Karabakh in which nearly 7,000 soldiers were killed. from both sides.

Yerevan and Stepanakert accused Baku of violating the terms of the agreement by installing a checkpoint at the Lachin corridor in April and then tightening the effective blockade of the Armenian-populated region in June.

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The blockade, which has effectively been in place since last December when a group of pro-government Azerbaijani activists began a protest in the Lachin corridor, cutting off Nagorno-Karabakh’s connection with Armenia, has resulted in severe shortages of foodstuffs, medicines and other essentials in the region populated by some 120,000 Armenians.

Authorities in Stepanakert stress that Karabakh’s population is increasingly suffering from malnutrition and facing the imminent threat of starvation. They have already reported cases of people fainting while standing in queues for rationed bread.

In his latest interview, Harutyunyan said that Azerbaijan’s actions amounted to genocide. Baku routinely denies such claims.

The United States, the European Union and Russia have repeatedly called for an immediate end to the blockade. Baku has dismissed their appeals, saying that the Karabakh Armenians should only be supplied with food and other basic items from Azerbaijan.

The Karabakh leader, however, again rejected Baku’s offer of an alternative route for humanitarian supplies passing through Azerbaijan-controlled Agdam. He said that Azerbaijan, whom Stepanakert views as the cause of the situation, cannot be the one to offer a remedy.

“First they turn it into a concentration camp, and then they start offering what they want and as much as they want,” Harutyunyan said. “Any proposal addressed to us must first of all respect our dignity, be within the framework of our dignity and comply with international humanitarian standards,” he added.

The Karabakh leader confirmed the news that a meeting between representatives of Stepanakert and Baku, which was supposed to take place on August 1 in Bratislava with the mediation of the West, did not take place. He claimed it was Azerbaijan who refused to hold the meeting.

Armenia insists that a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict should be found through an internationally visible dialogue between representatives of Stepanakert and Baku that would discuss the rights and security of the region’s ethnic Armenian population. Armenia views this as an essential prerequisite for a durable peace agreement with Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan insists that no special treatment is required for Karabakh Armenians, while pledging that if reintegrated they will enjoy all the rights that other citizens of Azerbaijan, including ethnic minorities, have.

 

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