On November 9th, 2020, a trilateral agreement was signed by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia to seal the 44-day war’s end between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. Nagorno Karabakh is a de-facto-independent region internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. However, it declared its independence in 1991 through a referendum. The Republic of Artsakh (NK) is also 99.7% ethnic Armenian, with its primary language being Armenian.
The trilateral agreement placed Russian peacekeepers in two central locations. However, there are placement issues that cause significant tension. The placement of peacekeepers in NK is deployed along the main roads of the former oblast. This can put Armenian and Azeri soldiers together without a third-party presence. Conflict along the Lachin Corridor is detrimental, as the Lachin Corridor is the only road linking Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
As the Lachin corridor’s closure passes its two-week mark, the circumstances in Nagorno Karabakh continue to decline. Currently, residents within the region are experiencing food shortages, a lack of medical supplies, and displacement. However, Azerbaijan continues to refute the current humanitarian crisis caused by their blockage, referring to the crisis as “fake news.”
While Azerbaijan maintains its post-war advantage due to the Kremlin being distracted by the war in Ukraine and a lack of international action, the Armenian people continue to face threats against their livelihoods within the region. Azerbaijan has continued to employ targeted tactics in order to push further into Nagorno Karabakh’s territory, knowing that it can endanger the Armenian population with no consequence.
On Dec.12, so-called Azerbaijani “eco-activists” demanded an investigation of Armenians in the region, accusing them of illegal gold mining. However, these claims are clearly fabricated and politically motivated. For instance, the identities of said protestors do not match that of eco-activist records. Furthermore, with a dive into open sources by Civilnet’s “CivilNetCheck” (a fact-finding source), Ecofront, the prominent Baku-based environmental NGO, states that the intentions of these protestors contain a “false agenda.” These protestors have also been photographed using the Turkish nationalist Gray Wolves hand symbol.
In light of these covert acts and now the blockade, it appears that Azerbaijan intends to incite fear within the population of ethnic Armenians as they continue to block the corridor. Analysts believe these continued instances of terror stem back to Azerbaijani demands following its victory in the second Nagorno Karabakh War, such as that of opening a so-called “Zangezur corridor,” a road connecting mainland Azerbaijan to its exclave of Nakhchivan that Azerbaijan illegally demands be under its jurisdiction. Azerbaijan has been pressing for the issue of such a road since the 2020 ceasefire.
The opening of such a ”corridor” would mean that Azerbaijan could use Armenia’s southern border to reach Nakhchivan, an autonomous Azerbaijani exclave bordering Iran, Turkey, and Armenia, exempt from customs checks. Keeping Azerbaijan from controlling Armenian territory ensures safety for civilian populations and Armenia’s sovereignty, as a lack of regulation could lead to further violations by Azerbaijan. The opening of such a corridor is not included in the trilateral statement signed in November 2020. As a result, Armenia refuses to agree to Azerbaijan’s terms.
As international organizations fail to push for these issues, Armenians continue to suffer under worsening conditions. Azerbaijan turned off the gas supply to Karabakh as temperatures in the region reached freezing points. Although the gas was reinstated, the residents of Karabakh are still forced to conserve resources. Schools were forced to close to save electricity only. Children cannot access education.
Food shortage is also becoming an issue, as shelves full of essential stock are becoming barren. Items like flour, wheat, sugar, oil and rice are unable to transfer from Armenia, as the Lachin corridor served as the only route to transport goods between Armenia and Karabakh.
Finally, medical aid and rescue are also impossible, as transport from Karabakh to Armenia is also affected by the continued blockade, leading to dire consequences. One patient living in Nagorno Karabakh, who was receiving routine hemodialysis in Yerevan, died because they could not access treatment. Another patient, a four-month-old critically ill baby, was also at risk of death due to the inability to transfer them to Yerevan, until the International Committee of the Red Cross intervened. The hospital director shared his concerns, saying that even if the corridor were to open at any moment, the child’s condition would remain critical.
On Dec. 20, the UN Security Council held an emergency meeting, during which member states like the United Kingdom and the United States urged Azerbaijan to reopen the corridor. The UK’s Ambassador expressed his concern with its continued closure, stating the impact on stranded civilians, children, women and people in need of medical attention. Other countries like Cyprus, Canada and France continue to urge Azerbaijan to reopen the borders to no avail.
With calls for international action falling on deaf ears, Karabakh residents remain in danger. Therefore, international entities must enact strict sanctions against Azerbaijan, which continues terrorizing civilians and further stunting peace plans.
As Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia both navigate their way through regional actors like Russia and Azerbaijan, it is crucial that the international community breaks its complicit behavior. They may condemn Azerbaijan, but they lack a pursuit of action post-condemnation. Without action, Azerbaijan will continue its blockade and commit further offenses. The lack of international regulation and action remains the reason behind continuous violations of ceasefire agreement by Azerbaijan.
If action is not taken and fast, the fate of Nagorno Karabakh and its people will remain endangered.