Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region has been cut off from much-needed supplies since December, when Azerbaijan closed the one road connecting the region to ally Armenia, saying it was an arms smuggling route.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) on Monday said it had finally been allowed to send trucks full of food and medicine to Nagorno-Karabakh, a breakaway ethnic-Armenian region in Azerbaijan.
“We are extremely relieved that many people reliant on humanitarian aid will finally receive much-needed support in the coming days,” said Ariane Bauer, ICRC regional director for Europe and Central Asia.
Nagorno-Karabakh has been kept from receiving aid from ally Armenia since last December, when Azerbaijan closed the vital Lachin corridor — which the enclave, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, has relied on as a pipeline of support from Armenia since the end of a 1994 separatist war.
Azerbaijan in control of Nagorno-Karabakh’s lifeline to Armenia
During a six-day war in 2020, Azerbaijan regained some territories ceded in 1994, taking control of, among others, the region where the corridor is located.
As a result of the closure, the enclave’s 120,000 residents have suffered severe shortages of food and medicine.
“Health structures are lacking medical supplies. People are queueing for hours for bread. They urgently need sustained relief through regular humanitarian shipments,” said the ICRC’s Bauer. She said she hoped goods could be shipped, “not just today but in the weeks to come, so that we can regularly get aid to those who need it.”
The shipments were made possible by a deal between the belligerents and arrived via two routes: the Lachin corridor to Armenia in the southwest, and the Aghdam Road to Azerbaijani-held territory in the northeast.
Azerbaijain has repeatedly demanded Karabakh reopen its access to the region via the Aghdam Road, which separatists have kept closed since 1988. Karabakh, however, has remained hesitant, claiming Azerbaijan is simply seeking to take control of the enclave.
Karabakh authorities said in a statement that 23 tons of flour had arrived on Monday, as well as medical and hygiene supplies, adding that the deliveries were a “small drop” of what was needed. They also cautioned that people should not infer the roads were now entirely open.
Ongoing Armenia-Azerbaijan tensions after 2020 fighting
Tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia remain high, with the two regularly exchanging fire across their highly-fortified, closed border. Meanwhile, both sides have sought to blame each other for the ongoing stand-off.
Armenia, which last month requested the UN Security Council convene an emergency meeting to address humanitarian conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh, says Azerbaijan is amassing troops.
In turn, Azerbaijan says it is being forced to take “urgent measures” to stop Karabakh forces from further fortifying the border.
js/msh (AP, Reuters)