Armenian ambassador to Ireland accuses Azerbaijan of attempted ethnic cleansing

‘Thousands of lives are in peril in Nagorno-Karabakh,’ Varuzhan Nersesyan says during Dublin visit

Azerbaijan “is attempting to force the population of Nagorno Karaback to leave” through intimidation and the continuing blockade of the Lachin Corridor since December 12th last, Armenian ambassador to Ireland and the UK Varuzhan Nersesyan has said.

Mr Nersesyan, who is on a two-day visit to Dublin this week, claims Azerbaijan was carrying out “a policy of ethnic cleansing in a hidden way”.

On December 12th Azerbaijani “self-proclaimed environmentalists” began protesting on the Lachin Corridor road over what they claim is the illegal exploitation of natural resources by Armenia in the Karabakh region, he said. Mr Nersesyan also claimed Azerbaijan has been turning off gas and electricity supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh and its 120,000 population.

“The ‘protests’ are nothing short of an orchestrated stunt designed to squeeze the region’s majority Armenian population into leaving altogether, also known as ethnic cleansing,” Mr Nersesyan said.

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“The blockade clearly violates the trilateral statement of November 9th, 2020, which says the Lachin Corridor shall remain under the control of Russian peacekeepers while Azerbaijan guarantees the safe movement of citizens, vehicles, and cargo.”

Nagorno-Karabakh is about 3,170 sq km in size and home to an ethnic Armenian majority supported by the Armenian government as a self-declared republic, though it is widely internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan. The area was the subject of a war that killed tens of thousands in the 1990s and again two years ago. Negotiations have failed to produce a lasting settlement.

“Thousands of lives are in peril in Nagorno-Karabakh and the blockade of it must be lifted immediately. That’s the assessment of Amnesty International earlier this month,” said Mr Nersesyan. The population there was “on the brink of famine”, he said.

“Over 400 tonnes of goods, food and medical supplies were delivered through the Lachin Corridor on a daily basis before the blockade, which will soon be in place for three months,” he said, “while basics like fruit and vegetables have almost vanished”, and there are now “severe shortages of baby formula and medicines”.

Mr Nersesyan is in Ireland to brief the Irish people, the Government and relevant authorities about the situation but also “to deepen, enhance and develop” relationships between Ireland and Armenia, not least as a newly appointed ambassador.

Describing the Azerbaijanis behind the blockade as “self-proclaimed environmentalists”, he noted how it had been condemned at the UN last December where Ireland had called on the UN Security Council to do “everything it can to prevent another human-made catastrophe emerging on its watch” and said Azerbaijan should “immediately restore movement along the corridor”.

Unicef also said the corridor “must be reopened immediately” as “the longer the situation persists, the more children will experience the lack of basic food items”.

Last Friday vice-president of the European Commission Josep Borrell called on Azerbaijan “to take the measures that are within its jurisdiction to ensure freedom and security of movement along the corridor”. He said the EU “remains seriously concerned about the distress the ongoing restrictions to freedom of movement and to the supply of vital goods are causing for the local population”.

Mr Nersesyan recalled “the destruction and desecration of many churches” in Nagorno-Karabakh during the 2020 conflict with predominantly Muslim Azerbijan. Subsequently Armenia called on Unesco to visit the area “but Azerbijan won’t allow access”, he said.

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry

Patsy McGarry is a contributor to The Irish Times