Months of tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh eased a notch on Monday as aid supplies continued following a deal between Armenian separatists and the government in Baku, Azerbaijan and the Red Cross said.
Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of fueling a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh after Baku last year blocked the only road linking Armenia’s mountainous region, the Lachin corridor guarded by Russian peacekeepers.
The shutdown has led to shortages of food and medicine in the region, with Yerevan accusing Baku of pursuing a “policy of ethnic cleansing.”
Azerbaijan rejected the accusation, arguing that Nagorno-Karabakh receives all the supplies it needs through Azerbaijan.
Baku said the separatist authorities simply refused their proposal to simultaneously open the Lachin corridor and the Aghdam road linking Nagorno-Karabakh to the rest of Azerbaijan.
The months-long crisis as well as Baku’s deployment of troops near Nagorno-Karabakh and along the Armenian border have fueled fears of a new full-scale conflict between the enemies that have been locked for a decade. regional dispute.
On Monday the “Simultaneous passage of Red Cross vehicles was ensured” through the Lachin corridor and Aghdam road, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev said on social media.
“The entire international community has once again witnessed that there is no so-called blockade but self-inflicted blockade, weapons and politicization of humanitarian issues and theatrical drama (…),” he said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said that thanks to “a humanitarian consensus between decision makers, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is now bringing shipments of wheat flour and essential medical items to people in need through the Lachin Corridor and the Aghdam road.”
The people of Nagorno-Karabakh “urgently need continued relief through regular humanitarian shipments. This consensus allows our teams to continue this life-saving work,” said Ariane Bauer, the regional director of ICRC for Europe and Central Asia.
The European Union and the United States have called for the reopening of the Lachin and Aghdam routes for humanitarian aid.
The Armenian-populated enclave of Azerbaijan was the center of two wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan – in 2020 and in the 1990s.
Six weeks of fighting ended in autumn 2020 with a Russian-brokered truce that saw Armenia surrender territories it had controlled since the 1990s.
There are frequent clashes on the shared border of the two countries despite ongoing peace talks between Baku and Yerevan under the mediation of the European Union and the United States.
Armenia and Azerbaijan say they are committed to a peaceful settlement of the conflict, but negotiations have so far failed to bring a breakthrough.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh seceded from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed about 30,000 lives.