“European Council President Charles Michel has proposed a step-by-step approach which would reflect a sequencing in the full-fledged operation of the Lachin corridor and the opening of the Aghdam route,” read a statement released by his spokeswoman, Ecaterina Casinge.
“The EU strongly believes the Lachin corridor must be unblocked, in line with past agreements and the [International Court of Justice] Order, and notes that the use of the Aghdam road to provide supplies can also be part of a concrete and sustainable solution to the provision of urgent and daily basic needs,” it said.
Despite struggling with worsening shortages of food and medicine, most residents of Karabakh appear to remain strongly opposed to the alternative supply line which Baku has set as a precondition for allowing renewed relief supplies through Karabakh’s land link with Armenia.
Scores of Karabakh Armenians have been blocking a road leading to the Azerbaijani town of Aghdam to prevent two Azerbaijani trucks loaded with 40 tons of flour from entering Karabakh. They as well as the authorities in Stepanakert believe that the proposed aid is a publicity stunt aimed at legitimizing the nearly nine-month blockade of the Lachin corridor and helping Azerbaijan regain full control over Karabakh.
Casinge said Michel and other EU officials have been “in frequent contact” with Baku, Yerevan and Karabakh representatives in recent weeks to advance the arrangement proposed by the EU chief.
“It is now time for courageous compromise solutions, also in light of today's escalation,” added Michel’s spokeswoman.
Reacting to Casinge’s statement, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reached an agreement on the simultaneous reopening of the Lachin and Aghdam roads during their July 15 meeting in Brussels hosted by Michel. It claimed that the Armenian side did not honor the deal.
Baku already made such claims shortly after the Brussels summit. They were denied by Pashinian.
The dire humanitarian situation in Karabakh was on the agenda of a meeting of the foreign ministers of EU member states held in Spain on Thursday. Speaking after the meeting, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell renewed the 27-nation bloc’s calls for Azerbaijan to restore “safe and unhindered traffic” through the Lachin corridor.
The U.S. State Department also reiterated that Baku should “immediately reopen the Lachin corridor to humanitarian, commercial, and passenger traffic.” The department spokesman, Matthew Miller, at the same time backed “additional supply routes” for Karabakh.