“I renew my appeal regarding the serious humanitarian situation in the Lachin Corridor, in the South Caucasus,” Francis told the Roman Catholic Church faithful who gathered at the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Square on Sunday.
“I am near to all those who, in the dead of winter, are forced to cope with these inhumane conditions,” he said in a clear reference to Karabakh’s population struggling with shortages of food, energy and medicine for about two months. “Every effort must be made on the international level to find peaceful solutions for the good of the people.”
Unlike the United States, the European Union and Russia, the pontiff stopped short of explicitly urging Azerbaijan to reopen the corridor blocked by Azerbaijani government-backed protesters on December 12.
The U.S. State Department insisted last week on a “full restoration of free movement” through the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia and the outside world.
Despite these calls, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev continues to defend the protesters demanding that Baku be given access to “illegal” copper mines in Karabakh.
The Karabakh premier, Ruben Vardanyan, called at the weekend for stronger international pressure on the Azerbaijani government. In an interview with French television, Vardanyan suggested that the U.S., Russia and France work together to have the blockade lifted. He said that the three world powers, which have long co-headed the OSCE Minsk Group, still have similar positions on the Karabakh conflict.