Azerbaijan has blockaded the territories of Nagorno-Karabakh that it already does not occupy. With the blockade in place since December 12, there is seemingly no end in sight.
The blocking of the Lachin corridor, the lifeline road connecting the self-proclaimed republic of Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, has not only trapped its 120,000 Armenian residents in an increasingly precarious situation, but some 15,000 tonnes of food and medicine have been blocked from reaching the enclave.
Commenting about this situation was Armenian Ambassador to Athens Tigran Mkrtchyan, who told TV100 Thessaloniki that 120,000 Armenians are being held hostage, which "is causing growing into a humanitarian catastrophe."
Journalist: I'm very glad to have Mr. Mkrtchyan with me once again - the Ambassador of Armenia in Greece․ Тhank you, Mr. Ambassador for being here with us.
Ambassador Mkrtchyan: Thanks for receiving me.
Question: Mr. Ambassador, approximately a month ago a group from Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin corridor, the only effective road that connects Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia and by extension with the whole world. These activists were later joined by Azerbaijani soldiers. What are the latest developments and what is the current situation?
Ambassador Mkrtchyan: You're right, it's been already 36 days actually that the Lachin Corridor, Lachin road has been blocked by these people who label themselves as ‘eco-activists’ but actually nobody, including themselves, believe that they are eco-activists. So basically 120,000 Armenians are being held hostage under this siege which is causing what is growing into a humanitarian catastrophe actually.
Everyday from Armenia to Nagorno Karabakh about 400 tons of food and basic stuff were being transported which has been cut right now. Only and exclusively the vans and cars of the Russian peacekeepers or the International Red Cross can pass which of course the so-called activists are videotaping and saying as if the road is not blocked.
But the road is blocked and there is a blockage and everybody, the International Community recognized it as such. Of course, there have been vocal voices about this situation from the West, most of the Western countries of course reacted and there was also a discussion of the situation in the UN Security Council but as of now it has been to no avail actually unfortunately.
Azerbaijan has been ignoring all of those calls and two days ago the president of Azerbaijan said that these activities will continue basically also implicitly accepting that all of this show is organized by the government of Azerbaijan. Simply the tragedy and the paradox of the situation are such that under the name of eco-activism which is in itself a positive thing, a siege is organized the aim of which is ethnic cleansing․ So under the name of something good a horrific act is being committed right now which may lead to a complete ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh as we say, which is of course unacceptable.
And today you asked me about the latest developments, I would like to say that yesterday the European Court of Human Rights sent an urgent notice to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to monitor Azerbaijan's implementation of the Court's decision from interim measure from the December on the Lachin Corridor which is very important of course.
Today right just a few hours ago our foreign minister was in the OSCE where he had an address in the Council and one of his important points was that it's time to act right now, because the situation is really getting grave on a daily basis and this cannot be accepted, we cannot stand by and let the people starve to death, this is unacceptable.
Question: So would you say that this is the worst point that the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations have ever been?
Ambassador Mkrtchyan: Well, the worst points have been the wars that we have had unfortunately because of the similar stance of Azerbaijan in the past as well. But this is leading to another low in the relations of course and as the United States State department’s recent reaction actually was that this is pushing back the peace process in a severe way, this is a huge blow to the negotiations and to having a constructive talk.
Although I should say that on other accounts, on other frontiers of negotiations, there hasn't been any progress, and actually just a few months ago in September Azerbaijan attacked Armenian proper territory and occupied 150 hectares of the southern territory of Armenia which is, of course, another huge problem in our relations.
Question: What needs to be done now for Armenia and Azerbaijan to establish better relations, I mean on a realistic base?
Ambassador Mkrtchyan: In addition to the reactions that we have been having from various governments including the Hellenic government, which made a call to the unconditional opening of the road and other governments in the world and organizations, in addition to this course we need to understand what are the next steps.
So Armenia has appealed, and it would be very much necessary to have a UN or an international monitoring mission to Lachin and to Karabakh to have an assessment of the situation there. Azerbaijan has been so far resisting this kind of activity and international involvement in this issue.
But we believe that the international community needs to explain to Azerbaijan that this behavior will not be tolerated. Azerbaijan should not be awarded for such type of behavior and certain mechanisms of punishment should be imposed because during the 2020 war, after the war, and in this recent escalation of September 2022 there have been several war crimes committed and nobody has been held accountable.
And the lack of appropriate reaction to these kinds of acts has led to the current situation which may also develop into something catastrophic unless Azerbaijan understands that it will be held accountable, that punishment is applied in such cases, that sanctions may be applied in such cases.
So Armenia has asked for more International engagement, sending missions from the EU to Southern Armenia, the OSCE mission to Southern Armenia, and the International monitoring mission to Karabakh to Lachin. As well as the UNESCO Mission to Karabakh and the surrounding areas, but so far in the latter two accounts - on the international monitoring Mission and UNESCO we haven't been successful since we have faced the resistance of Azerbaijan unfortunately.
Journalist: Mr. Ambassador, thank you so much for this discussion․
Ambassador Mkrtchyan: Thank you very much, thank you.