SAWT BEIRUT INTERNATIONAL

| 21 June 2024, Friday |

Azerbaijan sets up checkpoint on land link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh

Azerbaijan set up a checkpoint on the only land link between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Sunday, prompting a furious response from Armenia.

The action exacerbates tensions between the ex-Soviet Caucasus states, which fought two wars over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh territory.

“The units of the Azerbaijani Border Service established a border checkpoint on the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan, at the entrance of the Lachin-Khankendi road,” the state border service said.

Baku and Yerevan went to war in 2020 and in the 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh.

 

Under the Russia-brokered ceasefire that ended the 2020 conflict, Azerbaijan is required to guarantee safe passage on the Lachin corridor, which is patrolled by Russian peacekeepers.

Azerbaijan, however, said it set up the checkpoint at 12:00 pm (0800 GMT) on Sunday “to prevent the illegal transportation of manpower, weapons, mines.”

It added the checkpoint “shall be implemented in interaction with the Russian peacekeeping force.”

Since last year tensions have risen over the Lachin corridor, with Russia focused on its offensive in Ukraine.

In December, Azerbaijani activists blocked the Lachin corridor to protest what they claim was illegal mining.

Yerevan accused Baku of staging the demonstrations and creating a humanitarian crisis in the mountainous enclave.

 

‘Gross violation’

In a new escalation on Sunday, Azerbaijan said it built the checkpoint following “threats and provocations” from Armenia, which denied the claims.

Baku accused Yerevan of using the corridor for the rotation of army staff, “the transfer of weapons and ammunition, entrance of terrorists, as well as illicit trafficking of natural resources and cultural property.”

It said it recorded military convoys entering Azerbaijan’s territory and “the construction of military infrastructure… at the point closest to the territory of Azerbaijan.”

The Armenian foreign ministry said the claims were a “far-fetched and baseless pretext”.

It said setting up the checkpoint was “a gross violation” of the 2020 ceasefire agreement, part of Baku’s “policy of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Separatist authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh called on “the Russian Federation to immediately begin discussions” including on “preventing the establishment” of the checkpoint.

Distracted by its offensive in Ukraine and the confrontation with the West, Russia has been visibly losing influence in the region, which it sees as its traditional sphere of influence.

Yerevan, which relies on Russia  as a security guarantor, has grown frustrated over the Kremlin’s failure to fulfil its peacekeeping role.

Several servicemen from both sides have been killed in clashes in recent months.

And on Sunday, Armenia reported Azerbaijan’s forces killed one of its servicemen.

Azerbaijan said it was responding to enemy fire.

The US government said on Sunday it was “deeply concerned” by the new Azerbaijani checkpoint, and that it undermines efforts toward peace in the region.

The State Department urged free and open movement of people and commerce on the Lachin corridor and also called on the parties “to resume peace talks and refrain from provocations and hostile actions along the border.”

Source: FRANCE 24 with AFP