More badly needed humanitarian aid was on its way to the separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh via both Azerbaijan and Armenia on Saturday. The development comes days after Baku reclaimed control of the province and began talks with Armenian separatist representatives on reintegration.
The aid shipments and evacuations followed Azerbaijan’s months long road blockade of the region, which led to food and fuel shortages, and Baku’s subsequent lightning military offensive this week.
The aid came via the so-called Lachin corridor, the region’s only road connection to Azerbaijan’s neighbour Armenia. Russian peacekeepers were supposed to ensure free movement along the route, but Azeris imposed a blockade since December, alleging that Yerevan was using the road for mineral extraction and illicit weapons shipments to the province’s separatist forces.
Armenia charged that the closure denied basic food and fuel supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh’s approximately 120,000 people. Azerbaijan rejected the accusation, arguing that the region could receive supplies through Aghdam — a solution long resisted by Nagorno-Karabakh authorities, who called it a strategy for Baku to take control of the region.
Nagorno-Karabakh came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by the Armenian military in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. Armenian forces also took control of substantial territory around the Azerbaijani region.
Azerbaijan regained control of the surrounding territory in a six-week war with Armenia in 2020. A Russia-brokered armistice ended the war, and a contingent of 2,000 Russian peacekeepers was sent to the region to monitor it.
Last Tuesday, Azerbaijan launched a military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh to clear out alleged Armenian military formations in the territory. A cease-fire was announced a day later, toning down fears of a third full-scale war over the region.
Under the agreement mediated by Russian peacekeeping forces, Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist authorities made sizable concessions: disbanding the region’s defence forces and withdrawing Armenia’s military contingent.
But the question of Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status remains open, and at the centre of talks between the sides that began Thursday in the Azeri city of Yevlakh.
Hundreds of ethnic Armenians evacuated by Russian peacekeepers from Nagorno-Karabakh in the wake of Azerbaijan’s offensive, which Baku termed an “anti-terrorist operation,” were filmed Saturday camping outside an airport near the Russian peacekeepers’ base by local media.
On Friday, Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister, Jeyhun Bayramov, reaffirmed Baku’s determination to guarantee Nagorno-Karabakh residents “all rights and freedoms” in line with the country’s constitution and international human rights obligations, including safeguards for ethnic minorities.
Azeri authorities reported Saturday that they shipped over 60 tons of fuel that same day through the South Caucasus country’s territory, through a road leading from the city of Aghdam to Nagorno-Karabakh’s regional capital.
Moscow has also sent over 50 tons of food aid and other “basic necessities” to Nagorno-Karabakh, the state-run RIA Novosti agency reported on Saturday. The Russian Defense Ministry that same day published a video showing Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region unloading the cargo.
However, during an emergency United Nations Security Council meeting on Friday, Armenian Foreign Minister, Ararat Mirzoyan, called to address the situation in the region. He accused Baku of launching an “unprovoked and well-planned military attack” on the province.