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Red Cross Seeks Permission To Resume Aid To Karabakh


Nagorno-Karabakh - Empty shelves at a food store in Stepanakert.
Nagorno-Karabakh - Empty shelves at a food store in Stepanakert.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday that it must be allowed to resume relief supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh which has been struggling with severe shortages of essential items due to Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin corridor.

“The civilian population [of Karabakh] is now facing a lack of life-saving medication and essentials like hygiene products and baby formula,” the ICRC said in a statement. “Fruits, vegetables, and bread are increasingly scarce and costly, while some other food items such as dairy products, sunflower oil, cereal, fish, and chicken are not available. The last time the ICRC was allowed [by Azerbaijan] to bring medical items and essential food items into the area was several weeks ago.”

“Our humanitarian aid convoys are a lifeline for the population in this area. With these convoys blocked, our concern is that the humanitarian situation will further deteriorate,” the statement quoted the ICRC’s regional director for Eurasia, Ariane Bauer, as saying.

“This is life-saving work, and it must be allowed to continue,” Bauer added, urging the conflicting sides to reach a “humanitarian consensus” for that purpose.

The Red Cross and Russian peacekeepers stationed in Karabakh began sending limited amounts of humanitarian aid to Karabakh after Azerbaijan blocked commercial traffic through the Lachin corridor last December. Baku halted those relief supplies as well on June 15, aggravating the humanitarian crisis in the region. The ICRC has since been intermittently allowed to only evacuate critically ill Karabakh patients to Armenian hospitals.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said it “took note” of the ICRC statement while warning the Geneva-based organization against “abusing” its mandate. It also said the Armenian side has rejected its offer to supply Karabakh with basic necessities from Azerbaijan proper and the town of Aghdam in particular.

Karabakh’s leadership has described the offer as a cynical ploy designed to facilitate the restoration of Azerbaijani control over the Armenian-populated territory.

The ICRC noted in this regard that it is “not currently able to bring humanitarian assistance to the civilian population through the Lachin corridor or through any other routes, including Aghdam.”

Its statement came amid worsening food and fuel shortages that have brought economic life in Karabakh to a standstill. Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said last week that the region is “on the verge of starvation” and called for stronger international pressure on Baku.

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