WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken phoned Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Monday to call for an immediate end to Azerbaijan’s six-week blockade of the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia and the outside world.
“I urged President Aliyev to immediately restore commercial traffic on the Lachin corridor,” Blinken tweeted after the call.
“Each day it remains blocked risks a humanitarian crisis and undermines the steps that Armenia and Azerbaijan have taken toward peace,” he said. “The U.S. is committed to supporting these efforts.”
A separate statement released by the U.S. State Department said Blinken also “encouraged President Aliyev to redouble efforts in bilateral peace discussions with Armenia.”
Blinken spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan by phone on January 18. He was reported to express “deep concern for the worsening humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The United States has repeatedly called for the lifting of the blockade. Azerbaijan has also faced similar calls by the European Union and Russia. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov raised the issue with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov in a January 17 phone call.
The authorities in Stepanakert reported at the weekend that Azerbaijan again blocked a pipeline that supplies natural gas from Armenia to Karabakh.
Armenia’s supplies of electricity to Karabakh were similarly blocked by Baku on January 10, leading to daily power cuts in the Armenian-populated territory. The energy crisis compounded shortages of food, medicine and other essential items endured by local residents.
In an interview with BBC published by his office on Monday, the Karabakh premier, Ruben Vardanyan, insisted that despite the severe hardship the Karabakh Armenians remain “very firm in our desire to live in our homeland.”