Aghdam is not an alternative to the reopening of the Lachin corridor, EU says

Demonstrators in Askeran block the road connecting Azerbaijan to Nagorno-Karabakh

By Mane Berikyan

Azerbaijan’s offer to route goods to Nagorno-Karabakh through the Azerbaijani town of Aghdam “should not be seen as an alternative to the reopening of the Lachin corridor,” said European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell in a statement on Wednesday, appearing to pour cold water on Azerbaijan’s proposal.

The statement said the EU is “deeply concerned about the serious humanitarian situation” in Nagorno-Karabakh and called on Azerbaijan to immediately “guarantee safety and freedom of movement along the Lachin corridor.”

Earlier this month, in a readout after a meeting between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders in Brussels, European Council President Charles Michel noted Azerbaijan’s “willingness to provide humanitarian supplies via Aghdam.” Before that summit, Azerbaijan’s foreign minister had told the International Committee of the Red Cross his country stands ready to send “essential goods” to Nagorno-Karabakh through Aghdam, which Yerevan ceded to Baku after the 2020 war.

In response to Michel’s readout, demonstrators in Nagorno-Karabakh set up a roadblock on the road connecting Karabakh to Azerbaijan through Aghdam. Signs held by protesters read “Aghdam is the road of death” and “Charles Michel, the Aghdam road is not a humanitarian corridor.”

The Nov. 9 ceasefire that ended the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war mandates the existence of the Lachin corridor, which is supposed to be under the control of Russian peacekeepers. However, Azerbaijan in April installed a checkpoint on the corridor in direct violation of the ceasefire.

Meanwhile, the Red Cross said this week it is still unable to bring humanitarian aid to Nagorno-Karabakh, including through the town of Aghdam. “Our humanitarian aid convoys are a lifeline for the population in this area,” said Ariane Bauer, the Red Cross’s Eurasia director, warning that vulnerable populations are particularly at risk.

Shortly after that, the EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, Toivo Klaar, linked to the Red Cross’ statement on Twitter and noted that the EU is “taking their warnings seriously.”

For more than seven months, Azerbaijan has been blocking the Lachin corridor, the only overland route connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and the rest of the world. Although the International Committee of the Red Cross was previously allowed to make limited deliveries of humanitarian aid through the Lachin corridor, over the last month Azerbaijan has severely escalated the situation by blocking the entry of all humanitarian aid through the Lachin corridor.

The European Union, United States and Russia have repeatedly called on Baku to unblock the Lachin corridor.

Staple foods, life-saving medicines and other essential goods in Nagorno-Karabakh have completely run out or are in scarce supply, while officials warn of an imminent threat of starvation in the region.

Azerbaijan on Wednesday blocked 360 tons of humanitarian aid from entering Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia, which the Armenian government had sent via convoy to the entrance of the Lachin corridor. The trucks carrying humanitarian aid are now stuck in Kornidzor, the final Armenian village before the Lachin corridor.

Previous media reports, including by CivilNet, described the convoy as carrying 400 tons of aid, citing official sources. However, the Armenian government has since clarified that the convoy is carrying 360 tons of aid.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said today during his weekly cabinet meeting that Azerbaijan’s blocking of the humanitarian aid reveals that Baku’s “true intention” is to “starve the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and subject them to genocide.”

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