On December 27, 2022, UNICEF issued a statement warning about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, the result of the virtual closure of the Lachin Corridor, a road that links Armenia and the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. As UNICEF warns, children are being affected by the blockage and “the longer the situation persists, the more children will experience the lack of basic food items, while access to many of the essential services they need for their survival, healthy growth and wellbeing will become more challenging. Many children have also been deprived of parental care as they have been separated from their parents or legal guardians.” As Administrator Samantha Power, United States Agency for International Development, raised, “the Lachin Corridor must be re-opened immediately – the closure has the potential to cause a significant humanitarian crisis. This corridor is an essential route for the flow of much needed food and medical supplies that must be allowed to flow freely.”
As Human Rights Watch reported, “the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia has been blocked since December 12, 2022, disrupting access to essential goods and services for tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians living there.” Furthermore, the blockage does not only prevent the delivery of essential items. It prevents Nagorno-Karabakh residents from moving freely from and to the region. Thousands of people are stranded and unable to reach their homes, including children who were on a school trip to Yerevan.
The Lachin Corridor has been blocked by Azerbaijani protesters since December 12, 2022, protesting about the issue of alleged illegal mining of natural resources in Nagorno-Karabakh. The protest, blocking the Lachin Corridor, halts the normal movement of people and goods in or out of the enclave, including food, fuel, and medical supplies, resulting in shortages of the products in the enclave.
The issue has gained the attention of the U.N. Security Council. During a meeting of the U.N. Security Council on December 20, 2022, Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, Central Asia and Americas, Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, told the U.N. Security Council that “the current escalation of tension and incidents threatens to derail fragile progress and unleash a dangerous resumption of violence.” According to his statement, “tensions on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and around areas under control of Russian Federation peacekeeping forces have not abated.” The potential human toll of resumed conflict could be considerable. “It would not only impact people of Armenia and Azerbaijan, but the wider South Caucasus region and beyond. The parties [must] redouble efforts for a negotiated peaceful settlement before it is too late.” During the meeting, the representative of Armenia said that the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh is close to turning into a humanitarian catastrophe.
Ambassador Robert A. Wood, Representative of the United States of America to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council that “impediment to use the Lachin Corridor sets back the peace process and undermines the international confidence in it.” Mher Margaryan, Permanent Representative of Armenia to the United Nations, told the U.N. Security Council that “the ongoing blockade is not just one isolated case, but another demonstration of systematic violence used by the Azerbaijani authorities to subject the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to ethnic cleansing.” He added that “Azerbaijan is still disregarding the International Court of Justice Order on the Provisional Measures issued under the Convention on Elimination of Racial Discrimination against Azerbaijan in December 2021, in relation to the humanitarian obligations vis-à-vis the Armenian prisoners of war.”
As the situation deteriorates, it cannot be stressed more that the commitments of the ceasefire of November 9, 2020, must be implemented and continue to be safeguarded. This includes ensuring the safe movement of persons, vehicles and goods along the Lachin Corridor. Furthermore, humanitarian organizations and United Nations agencies, especially the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees must be granted immediate, free and unhindered access to the affected populations to provide them with the needed assistance.