Baku’s continued blockade of a key road linking Armenia to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region risks a potential humanitarian crisis, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned on Monday, urging Azerbaijan’s president to lift the blockade of the corridor.
Underscoring the risk of the humanitarian crisis in the area, Blinken told Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev in a call that they must immediately reopen the Lachin corridor to commercial traffic since the blockade also undermines peace prospects between longtime enemies Armenia and Azerbaijan.
According to the State Department’s readout of the call, the State Secretary also encouraged Aliyev to double down on efforts for peace discussions with Yerevan, raising human rights concerns in Azerbaijan.
Although it claimed that the ones blocking the road for over a month now are environmental activists protesting against what they say is illegal Armenian mining in the area, Baku has reiterated on several occasions its support for the activists, saying their requests are legitimate.
A bipartisan group of US lawmakers urged Washington last week to increase pressure and even use sanctions on Aliyev to force him to end the blockade of more than 120,000 people in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Stressing that the threat of sanctions against Azerbaijan is warranted and appropriate, the lawmakers said that the Biden administration must consider all available options -including potential airlifts of supplies – to provide humanitarian aid to the region.
Previously last month, USAID Director Samantha Power urged the immediate opening of the Lachin corridor which is an essential route for the much-needed food and medical supplies to flow.
According to Human Rights Watch, which had documented torture and other mistreatment by Azerbaijan against Armenian civilians, Azerbaijani forces have subjected numerous Armenian prisoners-of-war to physical abuse and acts of humiliation.
As videos that have also surfaced showed, Azerbaijani servicemen were desecrating the dead bodies of Armenia soldiers.
Baku, on the other hand, refused the claims, accusing at the same time Armenian forces of torturing Azerbaijani prisoners and placing landmines throughout the Nagorno-Karabakh region.