Armenia warns of ‘humanitarian catastrophe’ in disputed Nagorno-Karabakh

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Armenia on Thursday warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Nagorno-Karabakh after gas supplies to the disputed region were cut off following repair works to a pipeline there.

Arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan both lay claims to the mountainous territory, where a war broke out late in 2020 and where, after a Russian-brokered ceasefire, Yerevan ceded large swathes of territory.

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But between 25,000 and 120,000 ethnic Armenians still live in Karabakh, where natural gas supplies were interrupted on Saturday, a day after repair works were completed on a pipeline running from Armenia.

Yerevan has accused Azerbaijan of deliberately leaving Karabakh’s ethnic-Armenian population without natural gas, a charge which Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry rejected as “baseless.”

But on Thursday, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan warned the region was “on the verge of a humanitarian catastrophe” amid particularly cold weather.

“This clearly shows what Azerbaijan's policy towards Karabakh’s Armenians is to make their life impossible on their own land,” he told a cabinet meeting.

Karabakh separatist authorities’ spokeswoman, Lusine Avanesyan, told AFP that the region’s population is relying on electricity and firewood for heating and that “kindergartens and schools were forced to close.”

“Azerbaijan is terrorizing our population so that people leave Karabakh,” she said. “This is unacceptable and inhumane. The world must react.”

The European Union on Wednesday said “there is an urgent need to ensure the immediate resumption of the gas supply to the affected local population.”

The six-week conflict, which ended in November 2020, cost more than 6,500 lives.

Ethnic Armenian separatists in Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan as the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and the ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives and displaced many more.

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