Routes into Azerbaijan’s breakaway territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, including a key link known as the Lachin corridor, remained blocked at the weekend despite a claimed deal between the two sides on humanitarian aid deliveries.
Tensions have been rising in the region as Armenia holds military exercises with US forces, Nagorno-Karabakh elects a new leadership, and Azerbaijan builds up its forces on the border, which may have doomed the reported breakthrough on humanitarian aid shipments before it even began to be implemented.
Nagorno-Karabakh authorities have claimed a deal was struck on opening the border, but confirmation from Baku has so far been lacking.
“The authorities of the Republic of Artsakh (the self-designation of the ethnic Armenians in Karabakh), proceeding from the need to alleviate the acute humanitarian problems caused by the total blockade carried out by Azerbaijan, decided to allow the import of Russian cargoes to our republic through the town of Askeran. An agreement was reached to restore the transportation of humanitarian goods through the Lachin corridor through Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross,” the statement by the authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said, according to news.am website.
Under the reported deal, Azerbaijan has agreed to allow humanitarian aid through its blockade of the Lachin corridor to Armenia so long as the Nagorno-Karabakh authorities also allow the reopening of the route into Azerbaijan via Askeran. The Askeran route would be the first time a transport link had been opened up from Azerbaijan since Nagorno-Karabakh broke away in the early 1990s, marking a symbolic victory for Baku.
However, currently, an ICRC truck is blocked near the Lachin border checkpoint on Armenian territory according to local Azerbaijani media. Baku has blocked Nagorno-Karabakh’s only route to the outside world since December 2022, causing severe hardship inside the territory.
“Although the Azerbaijani side is ready to ensure its passage across the border in accordance with the legislation of the country, the Armenians do not want to accept it. Because they know that if an ICRC truck passes through the Lachin border point, at the same time another truck with food must enter along the Aghdam road. To prevent this, the Armenians do not accept cargo along the Lachin road, dooming themselves to hunger,” the Azerbaijani website Report said.
A Russian Red Cross wagon is also currently halted in Barda, close to the Karabakh region, the local media reported. The truck with food and non-food items was sent in accordance with a memorandum of cooperation between the Azerbaijan Red Crescent Society and the Russian Red Cross, initiated by the Russian government, in order to meet the needs of Armenians.