The ongoing blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only land connection between Armenia and the ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan, has sparked international concern and condemnation as it has created a humanitarian emergency for the residents of the enclave.
The blockade, which has been in place since December 2020, has been carried out by a group of Azerbaijani protesters who claim to be environmental activists opposed to illegal mining in Nagorno-Karabakh. However, Armenia and the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh, which controls Nagorno-Karabakh, have accused Azerbaijan of orchestrating the blockade as a way of exerting pressure and violating the ceasefire agreement that ended the 44-day war in 2020.
The blockade has severely disrupted the movement of people, goods, food, and medical supplies to and from Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in acute shortages of essential items and rising prices. According to the United Nations, the blockade has placed the lives of the residents, especially children, persons with disabilities, older persons, pregnant women, and the sick, at significant risk. Hospitals are struggling to provide care as their reserves are depleting. Schools and other public institutions are also affected by the lack of electricity and gas.
The international community has called on Azerbaijan to lift the blockade and restore free and secure movement along the Lachin Corridor, as per the trilateral statement signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia on November 9, 2020. The statement also stipulated the deployment of Russian peacekeeping forces in the region to protect the corridor and monitor the ceasefire. However, Azerbaijan has insisted that it is not responsible for the blockade and that it is a spontaneous protest by its citizens.
The situation has also highlighted the deep divisions among the regional and global powers over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Turkey, a close ally of Azerbaijan, has expressed its support for the blockade and accused Armenia of exploiting the natural resources of Nagorno-Karabakh. Iran, which borders both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has offered to mediate between the two sides and facilitate humanitarian aid to Nagorno-Karabakh. The European Union, the United States, and France, which co-chair the OSCE Minsk Group that has been leading the diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict since 1992, have urged both parties to respect their commitments and resume negotiations for a lasting peace settlement. Russia, which has close ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, has expressed its concern over the blockade and called for its immediate resolution.
The blockade of the Lachin Corridor is not only a humanitarian crisis but also a potential threat to regional stability and security. It demonstrates the fragility of the ceasefire agreement and the need for a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that respects the rights and interests of all parties involved.