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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Azerbaijan Closes Road to Karabakh, Accuses Red Cross of Smuggling

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Azerbaijan has temporarily closed its checkpoint at the only road connecting Armenia with the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, alleging that the Armenian branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was using its medical vehicles for smuggling various items.

The closure of the Lachin checkpoint on the state border with Armenia has raised concerns over the humanitarian situation in the restive region, which has been at the center of a decades-long conflict between the two South Caucasus neighbors.

The Armenian-populated region declared its independence from Azerbaijan after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, sparking a war that killed about 30,000 people and displaced hundreds of thousands. A fragile ceasefire was reached in 1994, but sporadic clashes continued along the line of contact.

In September 2020, a new round of fighting erupted, lasting for six weeks and claiming more than 6,000 lives. The hostilities ended with a Russian-brokered truce on November 9, 2020, which stipulated that Armenia cede large parts of territory it had controlled for decades to Azerbaijan. The agreement also deployed nearly 2,000 Russian peacekeepers to monitor the ceasefire and ensure the safe passage of civilians and humanitarian aid through the Lachin corridor, Nagorno-Karabakh’s only land link with Armenia.

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