A section of the vital road was blocked on December 12 by a large group of Azerbaijanis protesting against “illegal” mining in Karabakh. They are demanding that Baku be allowed to inspect ore mines in the Armenian-populated territory and assess their environmental impact. The Azerbaijani government has backed their demands.
The authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert have condemned the blockade as a gross violation of the 2020 ceasefire agreement that placed the Lachin corridor under the control of Russian peacekeepers.
The blockade, which has led to serious shortages of food, medicines and other basic goods in Karabakh, is continuing despite international pressure exerted on Baku.
In a statement, the Karabakh government insisted that the territory’s sole functioning ore mine run by a private company, Base Metals, has operated in accordance with “the highest international standards.” Nevertheless, it said, it has decided to request an “international ecological examination” of the Kashen deposit to disprove Azerbaijani claims to the contrary.
“Together with the management of the company, a decision was made to temporarily stop the operation of the company's mine until the examination is completed,” added the statement.
The announcement followed reports that Major-General Andrei Volkov, the commander of Russian peacekeeping forces deployed in Karabakh, held fresh talks with Karabakh Armenian leaders.
Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reportedly discussed the blockade in Saint-Petersburg on Monday when they spoke during an informal summit of the leaders of ex-Soviet states. They reported no concrete understandings afterwards.
The Kashen mine is Karabakh’s largest corporate taxpayer and private employer. It had more than 1,400 workers when Base Metals inaugurated its ore processing facilities in December 2015.