UN official warns against new conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A senior UN official on Tuesday urged the international community to prevent Armenia and Azerbaijan from resuming their conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, as the two countries accused each other of violating a peace agreement. peace negotiated by Russia.

UN Assistant Secretary General for Political Affairs Miroslav Jenča said a renewed conflict would likely affect the wider South Caucasus region and beyond. He urged redoubling diplomatic efforts to achieve a lasting peaceful agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan “before it is too late.”

The former Soviet countries have been locked in a decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of Armenian-backed ethnic Armenian forces since a separatist war there ended in 1994. Over a period of Six weeks into the war in 2020, Azerbaijan recaptured wide swaths of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories held by Armenian forces. More than 6,700 people were killed in the fighting that ended in a Russian-brokered peace deal.

Jenča said there has been “a glimmer of hope” for progress in ongoing diplomatic efforts following renewed violence in mid-September that killed 155 soldiers from both countries. But sadly, he said, tensions on the border and around areas placed under the control of Russian peacekeeping forces in the 2020 peace deal “have not abated as expected.”

He pointed to several incidents that have raised tensions, the latest allegedly related to protests near a Russian peacekeeping post on the Lachin highway, the only artery between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Jenča said the protests were reported to be against what the demonstrators claimed was the illegal exploitation of mineral resources and the environmental impact on the surrounding area. He said the UN understands that the protests continued on Tuesday, but is not in a position to verify or confirm the allegations.

In recent days, he said, both Armenia and Azerbaijan have written to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the Security Council offering very different accounts of the situation, alleging violations of commitments by the other side and questioning the claims. each.

The UN welcomes the commitment of Russian peacekeeping forces “to facilitate and ensure safe passage through the corridor,” Jenča said, citing media reports and statements by Russian peacekeepers indicating that they have passed some humanitarian and medical supplies.

Armenian Ambassador to the UN Mher Margaryan told the council that his country called the emergency meeting because since December 12, Azerbaijan launched a “mass campaign of state-sponsored protests along the Lachin corridor” and blocked the only supply route in and out of Nagorno-Karabakh creating “an evolving humanitarian crisis.”

At least 1,100 civilians have been stranded along the blocked highway over the past week, and the transfer of patients for urgent treatment in Armenian hospitals “has become impossible, already resulting in the death of one seriously ill patient.” , said.

“By orchestrating an illegal blockade of the Lachin corridor under the fabricated pretext of environmental concerns,” Margaryan said, “Azerbaijan has effectively targeted a population of 120,000 people by isolating them in precarious humanitarian conditions during the winter season.”

Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the UN Yashar Aliyev told the council that under the November 2020 Russia-brokered deal, the Lachin district was returned to Azerbaijan, which pledged to ensure the safety of people, vehicles and cargo moving on the road.

“Neither the Azerbaijani government nor the protesting activists have blocked the Lachin highway,” he said.

“Videos shared on social media show the unimpeded passage of various types of vehicles, including ambulances and humanitarian convoys,” Aliyev said. “Claims about the alleged humanitarian consequences of the situation are equally false. This is just another manifestation of reckless manipulation of the situation by Armenia for obviously malicious political purposes.”

Russia’s deputy ambassador to the UN Anna Evstigneeva expressed concern over the reports of the blockade of the Lachin corridor, saying that in recent days Russia “has been doing everything possible to ensure an early resolution of the situation.” As a result, she said, natural gas supplies were delivered to Nagorno-Karabakh and traffic on the highway was partially unblocked.

Russia calls on Armenia and Azerbaijan to observe the ceasefire and non-use of force agreements reached under their mediation, “in order to show restraint and avoid steps that could escalate tension,” Evstigneeva said.

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