Action Request to End the Blockade of Artsakh

Since 12 December 2022, Azerbaijan has imposed a blockade on the only road, a lifeline, between Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) through the Lachin Corridor, isolating some 120,000 Armenians in Artsakh and causing a dire humanitarian emergency. The Lachin Corridor, a span of 10 Km, separates Artsakh from Armenia.

Food, medicine and other vital supplies in Artsakh are depleting rapidly. Prior to the Azerbaijani blockade, over 400 tons of essential supplies were trucked daily from Armenia to Artsakh. As well, Azerbaijan has blocked and sabotaged intermittently the supply of gas and electricity from Armenia to Artsakh. Without reliable means for heating in the harsh winter, educational institutions in Artsakh have been forced to close.

Further, the movement of people between Armenia and Artsakh has been blocked completely. Even the air corridor between Armenia and Artsakh is closed as Azerbaijan has threatened to shoot down any flight attempting to land in Artsakh. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is the only humanitarian organization allowed to transport through the Lachin Corridor few gravely ill patients, among them children, for treatment in Armenia. Thus, the free movement of people and goods through the Lachin Corridor is blocked, and Artsakh is under Azerbaijani siege.

Azerbaijan claims the road through the Lachin Corridor is blocked by Azeri “environmental activists” protesting industrial undertakings in Artsakh, falsely claiming the activists are independent and not directed by the government.

However, these so-called “independent environmental activists” patently are agents of Azerbaijan’s dictatorial Aliyev regime. Freedom House rates Azerbaijan as “Not Free” with “little room for independent expression or activism.” “Unsanctioned assemblies can draw a harsh police response and fines for participants” in Azerbaijan.

Hence, the siege of Artsakh is a hybrid Azerbaijani warfare tactic intending to isolate and terrorize the Armenians in Artsakh and ultimately to force them out – a classic definition of ethnic cleansing. Aliyev has long promised and frequently stated publicly his intentions to cleanse Artsakh of its indigenous Armenians.

Governments and institutions around the world have not been fooled by the theatrics of Azerbaijani agents posing as independent actors and have called on Baku to end the siege of Artsakh. The EU Parliament stated that the safety and security of the people of Artsakh is paramount and only possible with the free movement of people and goods along the Lachin Corridor and with the presence of a reliable peacekeeping mission. The U.K., France, U.S., Sweden, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the European Court of Human Rights and countless others have called on Azerbaijan to end the siege of Artsakh and not interfere with the free movement of people and goods through the Lachin Corridor.

The Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin Corridor has created a DIRE HUMANITARIAN CRISIS in Artsakh and has TERRORIZED the 120,000 indigenous Armenians under siege. The ETHNIC CLEANSING of the Armenians of Artsakh, Azerbaijan’s next move, must be averted and ANOTHER WAR in the region prevented.

ACTION REQUEST: (1) Azerbaijan must order its operatives to vacate the Lachin Corridor and cease interfering with the free movement of people and goods between Armenia and Artsakh. Otherwise, (2) the international community must levy sanctions on Azerbaijan if the siege of Artsakh is not lifted. (3) International observers must be deployed to the Lachin Corridor to ensure the free movement of people and goods between Armenia and Artsakh.

BACKGROUND: Nagorno-Karabakh (called Artsakh by Armenians) has been inhabited by an indigenous Armenian population since at least the beginning of the 2nd century BC. Armenian monuments there date back to early Christianity. In 1921, the Soviet Union arbitrarily carved Artsakh out of Soviet Armenia and placed it under Soviet Azerbaijani administration, but with autonomous status as the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast (NKAO).

In the lead-up to the dissolution of the USSR, Artsakh emerged as a source of dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In the 1980s, Artsakh Armenians called on the Soviet authorities to transfer the region to Armenia. In response, a pogrom was carried out against the Armenian minority of the Azerbaijani city of Sumgait. Further pogroms and ethnic cleansing took place in the following years against Armenians in other Azerbaijani cities.

On 10 December 1991, following a referendum in accordance with the Constitution of the USSR in process of disintegration, Artsakh declared independence from the Soviet Union to become the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), with the intention of reunifying eventually with newly independent Armenia. The declaration was rejected by Azerbaijan, leading to the outbreak of full-scale war. Azerbaijan held a referendum for independence on 29 December 1991.

NAGORNO-KARABAKH WARS: Full-scale fighting erupted in early 1992 and continued until a ceasefire was reached in May 1994, with the Armenians gaining control of approximately the entire territory of the former NKAO, as well as most of seven adjacent districts of Azerbaijan as security buffer until a peace agreement could be signed. The international community did not recognize Artsakh’s de facto independence.

Since 1994, peace talks have been unsuccessful. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) created the Minsk Group in mid-1992 with the purpose of mediating a peace deal between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but little has been accomplished.

Intermittent fighting over the region continued without significant territorial changes. On 27 September 2020 with the assistance of Turkey, Azerbaijan launched a full-scale attack against Artsakh. The 44-day war claimed 7,000 deaths and ended in Azerbaijan’s takeover of a large part of the territory of the former NKAO, as well as the seven adjacent districts. A ceasefire declaration signed on 9 November 2020 ended the fighting and deployed a contingent of about 2,000 Russian peacekeepers along the line of contact, including the Lachin Corridor.

Since November 2020, Azerbaijan has repeatedly violated the ceasefire declaration through numerous military incursions across the line of contact and by continuing to hold Armenian POWs. What is more egregious, Azerbaijani forces have committed grave breaches of international humanitarian laws by mutilating numerous Armenian POWs and civilians, including women (horrific video evidence of torture and murder is available on the internet), sentencing to prison terms Armenian POWs under groundless terrorism charges and publicly humiliating them, destroying Armenian monuments and desecrating tombs.

The blockade of the Lachin Corridor and the siege of Artsakh are the latest egregious violation of the 10 November 2020 ceasefire declaration. The Russian peacekeeping forces have been unable or unwilling to remove the Azerbaijani blockade and ensure the free passage of people and goods through the Lachin Corridor as stipulated in the ceasefire declaration.

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