In brief

Karabakh’s Armenian population at risk of survival due to Azerbaijani blockade

Red Cross warns that essential medical supplies and food cannot be brought in

The Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh is at risk of survival after the Azerbaijani authorities closed all traffic between the enclave and the outside world 12 days ago. The International Committee of the Red Cross warns that “tens of thousands of people” in Karabakh “rely on humanitarian aid reaching them” from outside. The president of the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, Arayik Harutyunyan, describes the situation as a “humanitarian disaster” and warns that the blockade hits agricultural production, the economy, and the health and education systems.

Azerbaijan’s total blockade signals an escalation of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh since December 2022, when movement to and from the territory was severely restricted. However, the Red Cross was able to continue operating on the route connecting Karabakh and Armenia. Now, the organisation says it has not been allowed to bring essential medical supplies and food into the enclave “for weeks.”

The civilian population, says the Red Cross, “is now facing a lack of life-saving medication and essentials like hygiene products and baby formula. Fruits, vegetables, and bread are increasingly scarce and costly, while some other food items such as dairy products, sunflower oil, cereal, fish, and chicken are not available.” Armenia has organised a 400-truck aid convoy, but has not received authorisation to enter Karabakh.

According to Harutyunyan, the ultimate goal of the Azerbaijani strategy is “to destroy in whole the entire ethnic Armenian population of Artsakh,” as Armenians also refer to Nagorno-Karabakh, “and forcefully end the conflict by eliminating the people of Artsakh from their land.”

Nagorno-Karabakh has been de facto independent from Azerbaijan since the end of the Soviet era, with support from Armenia. Azerbaijan defeated Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia in a war in autumn 2020 that left the enclave’s territory reduced and completely surrounded by Azerbaijan. Only a contingent of 2,000 Russian troops stands between the approximately 120,000 Karabakh Armenians and the Azerbaijani army.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has stated that he is willing to recognise Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan in exchange for guarantees and rights for the local Armenian population. Nagorno-Karabakh’s government rejects that and demands international recognition of its independence. Azerbaijan is unwilling to grant special rights to Armenians and warns that it will eventually take back the whole of Karabakh by force.