Gas supply restored, road still blocked: situation in NK
Lachin corridor closed for the fifth day
“Without preconditions, without any concessions [from Armenia], Azerbaijan restored the gas supply,” State Minister of the unrecognized NKR Ruben Vardanyan said on the morning of Dec 16. This happened “under pressure from within and without” and he thanked everyone who supported this demand. Vardanyan said “the road may be opened during the day.” But at the time of writing, there was no further information about the opening of the Lachin corridor.
Armenia has applied to the European Court of Human Rights and the International Court of Justice on this issue.
Environmental law specialist and lawyer Nazeli Vardanyan said that Baku’s goal is to seize natural resources. She told Armenian journalists that Azerbaijan had already signed a billion-dollar contract to sell the Kashin mine in Nagorno-Karabakh.
On December 3, Azerbaijani activists closed the Lachin corridor for environmental reasons. The road was blocked for three hours. In the course of negotiations with the commander of the Russian peacekeeping cotingent Andrey Volkov, the Azerbaijanis reached an agreement on monitoring mines operating there. However, residents of NK blocked the entrances and did not let them in.
On the morning of December 12, the Lachin corridor was again blocked. The Azerbaijanis demanded a meeting with the commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent. But on December 15 they put forward new demands: Azerbaijani control over the territory of NK by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the border service, the customs committee, and the establishment of Azerbaijani checkpoints.
“Azerbaijan has already signed a contract on the sale of the Kashinsky mine”
Environmental law lawyer Nazeli Vardanyan said at a press conference that Azerbaijan’s actions since the 2020 Karabakh war have been aimed at seizing natural resources and dominating the economy.
According to her, on October 26, 2020, when hostilities were still going on and the Zangelan region was still under Armenian control, the Ministry of Ecology of Azerbaijan announced a bid. The winner was Anglo Asian Mining PLC, which took over management of the Zangelan mine.
“This year, an agreement was signed with the same organization regarding several mines in Artsakh, including the Kashen mine. According to published information, Azerbaijan received $3 billion from this deal,” Vardanyan said.
According to Vardanyan, “the activists who closed the Lachin corridor in the name of protecting the environment are trying to solve political and economic problems, to seize the territory of the mine without war.”
Since 2013 the Kashen mine has been operated by CJSC Base Metals, which is part of the Vallex group of companies. This company is the largest taxpayer and provides about 13% of the GDP of the unrecognized NKR.
However, on the official website of the British company Anglo Asian Mining PLC, the Kashen mine is presented as a site acquired on July 5, 2022.
“At any moment, the gas can be turned off again”
Artak Beglaryan, adviser to the state minister of the unrecognized republic, has been holding a sit-in in front of the UN office in Yerevan for the third day. He believes that the gas supply has been restored as a result of international pressure, but it is possible that the population of NK may be deprived of gas again at any time.
He recalled that in March, “Azerbaijan installed a valve on the gas pipeline passing through the territory under its control, and at any moment they can shut everything off again.”
According to Beglaryan, international guarantees are needed to solve the problem in the long term.
Armenia applied to the ECtHR and the Hague Court
On December 14, Armenia applied to the European Court of Human Rights with a demand to “apply interim measures against Azerbaijan and oblige it to unblock the Lachin corridor.”
It is already known that the court decided to give Azerbaijan until December 19 to respond, then a final decision will be made.
From the office of the Armenian representation on international legal issues it was reported that along with the demand to unblock the corridor, “the data of those who need to be immediately transported to Armenia due to their health” were submitted to the ECHR.
In addition, Armenia appealed to the International Court of Justice “with a request to convey to Azerbaijan that the corridor must be unblocked within 48 hours in order to ensure the right of free movement of people.”
“It is necessary to open a humanitarian air corridor”
Artsakh State Minister Ruben Vardanyan stated this in an interview with the Russian Kommersant.
“We are building a system for providing the population with everything necessary under the conditions of a complete blockade. The airport needs to be operational. This requires pressure from international organizations and all countries so that a humanitarian corridor is established and planes with humanitarian cargo can land at the Stepanakert airport.”
According to the state minister, this is the only way not to depend on Azerbaijan, because the recurrence of such situations is more than likely. He stressed that the airport is “fully functional”.
Referring to a possible dialogue with Baku, he said:
“Azerbaijan must understand that Artsakh must be recognized as a party to negotiations, and then everything can be discussed. This is not a crowd of people living here, this is a country, this is a state. There are institutions, parliament, government, president, public organizations. We need to sit down and negotiate – there is no other option.”
The Azerbaijani authorities have repeatedly stated that they are not going to “discuss the fate of the Karabakh Armenians” with anyone, because it is their “internal affair”. Recently, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev stated that he did not intend to negotiate on this issue with Ruben Vardanyan, who was “sent from Moscow.”
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Russia’s reaction to Pashinyan’s speech
Yesterday, the Prime Minister of Armenia said that the silence of some friendly countries on the issue of the Lachin corridor “seems at least strange.” The official representative of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Maria Zakharova, stated:
“We are concerned about the blocking of the Lachin corridor. This is due to the disagreements of the parties regarding the operation of mines. The Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation and the Russian peacekeeping forces are actively working to defuse the situation. We expect that full transport will be restored in the near future.”
She stressed that “it is unacceptable to create problems for the life of the civilian population.”
As for accusations of inaction leveled against Russian peacekeepers, Zakharov called them “unacceptable and counterproductive”, no matter which side they come from.
Lachin corridor closed for the fifth day