German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock on Tuesday called for a reopening of a key corridor to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, after talks with her Armenian counterpart.
Baerbock, whose country leads a European Union mission in the region, told reporters that the escalating humanitarian situation made it essential that “the blockade end immediately.”
“The supermarket shelves are almost empty, medication is lacking... family members are stuck in Armenia and can’t get back to their loved ones, schoolchildren have to freeze in these icy temperatures because the energy supplies are cut off,” Baerbock said.
Since mid-December, a group of Azerbaijanis has been blocking the only road into Karabakh from Armenia to protest what they claim is illegal mining causing environmental damage.
As a result, the mountainous region of some 120,000 people has been running short of food, medicines and fuel.
Armenia has repeatedly accused Russia, a powerbroker between the ex-Soviet republics, of standing in the way of ending a “humanitarian crisis.”
The EU set up a temporary monitoring mission last October along the Armenian side of the border with Azerbaijan aimed at restoring peace and security in the area and building confidence between the two sides.
Baerbock said after talks with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan that the mission aimed to ensure “more stability and above all trust” in the volatile region.
This includes establishing emergency hotlines between national and local authorities.
“We have in recent years been forced to see that any little spark can lead to a fire in the area – reliable communication channels lessen this risk,” Baerbock said.
She said Germany as head of the mission would coordinate with local police and civilian experts.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.
Another flare-up in violence in 2020 cost more than 6,500 lives and ended with a Russian-brokered truce that saw Armenia cede territories it had controlled for decades.
Baerbock noted the “enormous human suffering” caused by 30 years of conflict in the region.
“We have no illusions - there can be no solution overnight,” she said.
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