“We consider this outrageous policy of systematic violence against Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh to be unacceptable,” Armenia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.
The statement followed reports by de-facto Armenian authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh that natural gas supplies to the region had been cut by Baku in an area where a pipeline from Armenia passes through Azerbaijani-controlled territory.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s authorities said Azerbaijan was thus creating humanitarian problems for the population of the region amid still freezing temperatures despite early spring.
“The current situation necessitates a clear response from the international community to prevent a humanitarian crisis, as well as immediate and unhindered involvement of international humanitarian organizations in Nagorno-Karabakh,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry added.
It said that disrupted gas supplies deprived about 120,000 people in Nagorno-Karabakh of vital fuel in adverse weather conditions.
Gas supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenia were first disrupted on March 8 due to damage to the pipeline in Baku-controlled territory.
Stepanakert then accused Baku of not letting its maintenance workers to repair the pipeline quickly and restore the supply of vital fuel used for heating homes in Nagorno-Karabakh’s towns and villages as well as by bakeries and other businesses around the region.
The issue was also reportedly discussed by Armenian officials at an international level.
After 11 days of no gas supplies, the damaged pipeline was finally repaired on March 18 and the flow of natural gas to Nagorno-Karabakh was restored the next day.
But Nagorno-Karabakh’s authorities said late on March 21 that the gas delivery was again discontinued “as a result of direct interference from the Azerbaijani side.”
“We have sufficient grounds to assume that during the repairs of the gas pipeline the Azerbaijani side installed a valve through which it stopped the gas supply a few hours ago. Adverse weather conditions serve the insidious purpose of Azerbaijan to create additional humanitarian problems for our population, which is a crime,” Nagorno-Karabakh’s Information Headquarters said in a statement last night.
It added that commanders of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh had immediately been informed about the situation and that efforts were underway to restore gas supply to the region.
Authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh urged local residents to use electricity sparingly to avoid power outages.
Azerbaijan did not immediately comment on the situation or respond to accusations from Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia.
Meanwhile, two opposition factions in the Armenian parliament, Hayastan and Pativ Unem, initiated closed-door discussions today regarding the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.
The ruling Civil Contract party agreed to hold the discussions, but did not take part in the subsequent vote on an opposition-drafted resolution condemning Baku’s “aggressive actions” against Nagorno-Karabakh that have resulted in “a humanitarian disaster” in the region.
Leader of the party’s parliamentary faction Hayk Konjorian said that while Civil Contract largely shares the positions expressed in the draft resolution, they considered that “all diplomatic channels and instruments are being used now to address these issues.”
“We think that there is a sufficient number of instruments at the moment to deal with this issue,” he said.
Meanwhile, Armenia’s ombudsperson Kristine Grigorian and her Nagorno-Karabakh counterpart Gegham Stepanian issued a joint statement, condemning Baku for using gas supply as an instrument of pressure on Armenians in the region.
Nagorno-Karabakh, an autonomous region in Soviet Azerbaijan, has been claiming its independence from Baku since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a separatist war waged in the early 1990s that also led to ethnic Armenians’ making territorial gains inside Azerbaijan proper.
The standoff with Baku led to another war in 2020 as a result of which Baku gained control of parts of Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as seven adjacent districts that had been under Armenian control since 1994. Some 2,000 Russian troops were deployed in the region to monitor the cease-fire following a Moscow-brokered truce.