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Azerbaijan lets aid into majority-Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh

September 12, 2023

Separatist authorities in Azerbaijan's Armenian-populated breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region say supplies have arrived via Azerbaijan-controlled territory. Azerbaijan had closed a route linking the territory with Armenia.

A serviceman stands guard on an observation tower at the Russian-Turkish center monitoring the ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh
Azerbaijan reconquered territory in and around the mountainous region and Armenia lost control of the corridorImage: Gavriil Grigorov/TASS/dpa/picture alliance

A truck carrying aid from Russia crossed from Azerbaijani-held territory into the ethnic Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh region on Tuesday, despite objections from some residents.

It is the first time in 35 years that officials in Nagorno-Karabakh have allowed use of the transport link amid fears that the connection would allow Azerbaijan to fully absorb the breakaway territory.

Why was the aid shipment needed?

Azerbaijan started to blockade another road — the Lachin corridor — in December, alleging Armenians were using it to ship arms in and smuggle minerals out. 

Amid acute shortages of food, fuel, and medicine, Nagorno Karabakh authorities on Saturday conceded on allowing aid to be funneled through from Azerbaijani-held areas.

The local authority said the truck had arrived at its destination, the territory's capital, Stepanakert, carrying blankets, toiletries and 1,000 food parcels.

Under the terms of the agreement, Nagorno-Karabakh officials had also stipulated that Azerbaijan reopen the Lachin corridor.

Nagorno-Karabakh residents say basic supplies running out

While it appeared that this might not immediately be the case, Russia's foreign ministry said the shipment of aid represented "a first step" to resolving the crisis.

Russian officials said they expected that the Lachin corridor would be unblocked "in the near future."

Vital and symbolic transport link

Nagorno-Karabakh slipped from Azerbaijan's grasp in a separatist war as the Soviet Union collapsed. Since 1994, it has survived with direct support from Armenia thanks to control over the Lachin corridor.

During that first war, Armenia had gained control of swaths of territory around Nagorno-Karabach. However, Azerbaijan won that territory back in a six-week-long war with Armenia in 2020 — leaving Nagorno-Karabach once again surrounded.

Under a Russian-brokered armistice, the Lachin corridor became the sole connection between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Russian troops policed the corridor until it was blocked last December.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has accused Russia of being either "unable or unwilling" to control the transport route. He has also warned of a return to all-out conflict.

Germany does not recognise the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic," considering it to be part of Azerbaijan.

rc/jcg (AFP, Reuters, AP, dpa)