STEPANAKERT — The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) confirmed on Wednesday that it had to stop evacuating critically ill patients from Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia shortly after Azerbaijan set up a checkpoint on the Lachin corridor late last month.
The ICRC has transported scores of such persons to Armenian hospitals since Baku effectively blocked Karabakh’s land link with Armenia in December. Only Red Cross vehicles as well as convoys of Russian peacekeepers were able to pass through the road.
Eteri Musayelyan, a spokeswoman for the ICRC office in Stepanakert, told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service that the medical evacuations were suspended on April 29 due to the “new situation” created by the Azerbaijani checkpoint.
“In this new situation, we need to understand whether the terms remain the same and whether they are acceptable to all,” explained Musayelyan.
“We are now negotiating with all decision-makers because there need to be agreements acceptable to all sides so that we can continue our humanitarian mission as a neutral humanitarian organization,” she said without disclosing any details of those negotiations.
Artak Beglaryan, a Karabakh official stranded in Yerevan because of the blockade, said Azerbaijan’s “dictatorial regime” blocked the evacuations and is now trying to impose passport controls on Karabakh patients and Red Cross staff passing through the Lachin corridor.
“30 patients waiting for transfer [to Armenia,]” Beglaryan wrote on Twitter.
They include Karo, a 10-year-old Karabakh Armenian boy suffering from multiple illnesses. According to his mother, Narine Danielyan, Karo was due to be transported to Armenia for urgent medical treatment on May 2 along with four other children.
“Every minute is really critical for their life,” said Danielyan.
Azerbaijan deliberately prevents the supply of essential medicines to Artsakh through the ICRC, as a result of which serious problems arise in medical institutions of Artsakh.