Azerbaijan sets up checkpoint along Lachin corridor

By Mark Dovich

Azerbaijan on Sunday moved to set up a checkpoint along the Lachin corridor, effectively fulfilling one of its longstanding demands and dramatically escalating tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh and the broader region.

In a statement, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry cited “the continued systematic and large-scale misuse” of the only overland route connecting Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh “for illicit purposes by the Armenian side.”

“The said control mechanism shall be implemented in interaction with the Russian peacekeeping force,” the statement added.

Since the end of the 2020 war, Baku has repeatedly accused Armenians of using the road to transport weapons into Nagorno-Karabakh, a claim that Yerevan and Stepanakert have time and again dismissed as groundless and untrue.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s state-run InfoCenter said Azerbaijani forces closed the Hakari bridge, which lies within the Lachin corridor close to the border with Armenia.

The move to set up a checkpoint along the corridor set off a wave of criticism in Yerevan and Stepanakert, with authorities in both cities condemning Azerbaijan’s actions in the region.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry decried Azerbaijan’s move to set up a checkpoint as a “gross violation” of the ceasefire, calling on Russia to “fulfill its obligations…by eliminating the illegal blockade of the Lachin corridor and ensuring the withdrawal of Azerbaijani forces” from the corridor.

Meanwhile, following an emergency session convened by President Arayik Harutyunyan, Nagorno-Karabakh’s Security Council released a statement appealing to “all parties to the tripartite declaration, and especially the Russian Federation, to immediately start discussions on lifting the blockade of Artsakh and preventing the establishment of an Azerbaijani checkpoint.”

See more: Regional Security in Peril: Azerbaijan’s Checkpoint in Lachin Corridor

The term “tripartite declaration” refers to the ceasefire statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia to halt large-scale military operations in and around Nagorno-Karabakh in November 2020.

The ceasefire says the Lachin corridor should “remain under the control of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation,” while Azerbaijan should “guarantee the safe movement of persons, vehicles, and cargo along the Lachin corridor in both directions.”

The Security Council also condemned the checkpoint as marking the step where “the people of Artsakh have finally become hostage in the hands of Azerbaijan, with an increasing risk of ethnic cleansing.”

As of 8 p.m. Armenia time, Russia had not commented publicly on the news.

Last December, a group of self-styled Azerbaijani environmental activists, many of whom were later revealed to be connected with the Azerbaijani government, began blocking the Lachin corridor near the city of Shushi.

The roadblock, now beyond its 130th day, has prompted severe shortages of energy, food, medicine, and other essentials throughout Nagorno-Karabakh.

In February, the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to “take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions.” The ruling is legally binding, but the court has no enforcement powers.

Also read: Nagorno-Karabakh enters 100th day under blockade: A timeline

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