Armenian activists protest over Karabakh road link standoff

Armenian activists protest over Karabakh road link standoff

Updated 3 hours, 40 minutes ago

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) – Hundreds of opposition supporters rallied in the Armenian capital Wednesday, calling on the government to act to unblock a vital route to the separatist Nagorno-Karabakh region, after weeks of rising tension over Azerbaijan’s protests that drowned the base. supplies in the territory.

Protesters called on the administration in Yerevan to “take appropriate measures” to ensure the reopening of the so-called Lachin Corridor, the only supply route for ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, which has been blocked by mobs from neighboring Azerbaijan since December. 12. Azerbaijani authorities said on Tuesday that protests would be suspended if monitors were given access to what Azerbaijan calls illegal mining areas in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh lies inside Azerbaijan, but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Yerevan since the end of a separatist war there in 1994. That conflict left not only Nagorno-Karabakh itself, but also large swaths of surrounding land in the hands of the Armenians.

In 44 days of heavy fighting that began in September 2020, the Azerbaijani army routed Armenian forces and moved deep into Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing Armenia to accept a Russian-brokered peace deal that took effect in November of that year. The agreement provided for the return to Azerbaijan of a significant part of Nagorno-Karabakh and also required Armenia to hand over some of the lands it held outside the separatist region.

Lachin province, which lies between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, was the last of three areas on the edge of Nagorno-Karabakh to surrender to Armenian forces in December 2020. Russia has deployed nearly 2,000 peacekeepers for at least five years to ensure security passes transit through the region, monitor the peace agreement and assist the return of refugees.

Armenian demonstrators called on the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan “not to pass all responsibility” for resolving the situation to Russian forces, which have been engaged in a clash with Azerbaijani mobs for more than two weeks, drawing heavy criticism in Yerevan for its allegedly inadequate response.

“It is clear that the corridor of Lachin is an area of ​​responsibility of the Russian peacekeepers and they must fulfill their functions. But this does not mean that the Armenian authorities should sit idly by,” Ishkhan Saghatelyan, an Armenian lawmaker from the socialist-nationalist Dashnaktsutyun party, told Russia’s Interfax news agency.

Pashinyan reaffirmed Yerevan’s official position in a statement on Tuesday, saying that under recent agreements between Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia, the supply route should remain under the control of Russian peacekeepers, with Baku guaranteeing unhindered transport along it. Before that, Nikol Pashinyan repeatedly accused Moscow’s peacekeeping force of failing to live up to its responsibilities, something the Kremlin has denied.

Vale Gasparyan, one of the leaders of the pro-Western interparty bloc of the National Democratic Pole of Armenia, said in a live video broadcast on social media on Wednesday that a blockade should be imposed on a Russian military base in northern Armenia if the corridor of Lacini does not reopen. .

Ethnic Armenian leaders in the breakaway territory claim the blockade was orchestrated by the Azerbaijani government. Baku denies this, saying the protests in the Lachin region are “real” and “justified”.

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