French President Emmanuel Macron announced on Sunday that he will hold talks with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev later this week to discuss the situation in the Lachin corridor, a vital lifeline for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
The Lachin corridor, a 5-kilometer-wide strip of land that connects Armenia with the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, has been blocked by Azerbaijani forces since December 12, 2023, in violation of the ceasefire agreement signed in November 2020 that ended the 44-day war between the two countries.
The blockade has caused severe humanitarian and economic problems for the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, who depend on the corridor for access to food, medicine, fuel and other essential goods. It has also sparked protests and clashes along the border, raising fears of a new escalation of violence in the South Caucasus.
Macron, who has been a vocal supporter of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, said he will demand full respect for the Lachin humanitarian corridor and launch a new diplomatic initiative internationally to increase pressure on Azerbaijan to lift the blockade.
“We will demand full respect for the Lachin humanitarian corridor and we will again launch a diplomatic initiative internationally to increase pressure on this issue,” Macron said at a conference of French ambassadors in Paris.
He also expressed his “deep concerns” over the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and urged Baku to respect the ceasefire agreement and allow unimpeded access of humanitarian organizations to the affected people.
Macron’s announcement comes after a trilateral meeting with Pashinyan and Aliyev in Brussels on July 15, where he emphasized the need to open the Lachin road and find a lasting political solution in the region.
The meeting was facilitated by European Council President Charles Michel, who said he will continue to work with the parties concerned to achieve peace and stability in the South Caucasus.
The conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous region that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians, erupted again in September 2020, resulting in more than 6,000 deaths and tens of thousands of displaced people.
The ceasefire agreement brokered by Russia on November 9, 2020, ended the hostilities but left many issues unresolved, including the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and the fate of the Lachin corridor.
France, along with Russia and the United States, is a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, a mediation body that has been trying to resolve the conflict since 1992. However, its role has been sidelined by Turkey, which backed Azerbaijan militarily and politically during the war.
Macron has repeatedly criticized Turkey’s involvement in the conflict and called for its withdrawal from the region. He has also advocated for the recognition of Nagorno-Karabakh’s right to self-determination and its inclusion in the negotiation process.