Aid supplies resume to the region after a deal between Armenian separatists and Azerbaijan, Baku and the Red Cross say.
Trucks loaded with humanitarian aid have entered Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh after Armenian separatists and the central government agreed to use roads linking it to Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to Baku.
Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of causing a months-long humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh after Baku last year blocked the sole road linking the mountainous region with Armenia. It is called the Lachin corridor, and Russian peacekeepers police it.
Azerbaijan has rejected the accusation, arguing that Nagorno-Karabakh could receive all the supplies it needs via Azerbaijan.
Baku said separatist authorities had simply refused its proposal to simultaneously reopen both the Lachin corridor and the Aghdam road, which connects Nagorno-Karabakh with the rest of Azerbaijan.
On Monday, the “simultaneous passage of the Red Cross cars was ensured” through the Lachin corridor and the Aghdam road, Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev said on social media.
“The whole international community once again witnessed that there was no so-called blockade but deliberate self-blockade, weaponisation and politisation of humanitarian issues and theatrical dramas,” he said.
“[Thanks to] a humanitarian consensus between the decision-makers, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is today bringing shipments of wheat flour and essential medical items to people in need via the Lachin Corridor and the Aghdam road,” the ICRC said.
Nagorno-Karabakh residents, who are predominately ethnic Armenian, “urgently need sustained relief through regular humanitarian shipments. This consensus has allowed our teams to resume this lifesaving work”, said Ariane Bauer, ICRC’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia.
The European Union and United States have called for the reopening of the Lachin and Aghdam routes for humanitarian aid as Nagorno-Karabakh experienced shortages of food and medicine.
The months-long crisis as well as Baku’s deployment of troops near Nagorno-Karabakh and along the border with Armenia have sparked fears of a new all-out conflict between the arch-foes, who have fought two wars for control of the region.
Six weeks of fighting ended in 2020 with a Russian-brokered truce. The ceasefire saw Armenia cede swathes of territory it had controlled since the 1990s.
The two sides have been unable to reach a lasting peace settlement despite mediation efforts by the European Union, United States and Russia.