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A senior UN official told the United Nations Security Council on August 16 that the delivery of humanitarian relief to Nagorno-Karabakh by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must be allowed to resume through any available routes.

Edem Wosornu said the ICRC is doing everything it can but can only cover the most urgent needs.

“Other impartial humanitarian relief must also be allowed to reach civilians who need it, and a sustainable solution for safe and regular transit of people and goods must be found,” Wosornu said.

Wosornu spoke at an emergency meeting regarding the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Azerbaijan’s mostly Armenian-populated breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The meeting at the UN headquarters in New York City came after the Armenian UN Ambassador Mher Margarian said in a letter to the Security Council that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are “on the verge of a full-fledged humanitarian catastrophe.”

Both Armenia and separatist authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh have said that Azerbaijan has blockaded the region since December, resulting in shortages of food, medicines, and energy.

Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan discussed the situation with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, and stressed the need to avert a “humanitarian disaster,” TASS reported.

The situation has deteriorated to such a point that Armenia’s Human Rights Defender’s Office said on August 15 that a man around the age of 40 had died as a result of chronic malnutrition, protein and energy deficiency.

The claim has not been independently verified but a former International Criminal Court prosecutor said earlier in August that the blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only link between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, may amount to a “genocide” of the local Armenian population. Baku has rejected such an assertion.

Tensions sparked by the blockade escalated further after Azerbaijan in June tightened a checkpoint installed in April on the road known as the Lachin Corridor, claiming that “various types of contraband” had been discovered in the Red Cross vehicles coming from Armenia.

Referring to the blockade, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said on August 11 that Azerbaijan’s moves could result in “nullifying a historic opportunity for peace” between the two South Caucasus nation.

Azerbaijan denies blockading Nagorno-Karabakh and offers an alternative route for supplies via the town of Agdam, which is situated east of the region and is controlled by Baku.

However, Nagorno-Karabakh’s separatist government has rejected that offer, saying Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor is a violation of the Moscow-brokered 2020 cease-fire agreement that placed the 5-kilometer-wide strip of land under the control of Russian peacekeepers.

A group of UN experts issued a statement on August 7, expressing alarm over the ongoing blockade of the Lachin Corridor by Azerbaijan, which they said had led to a dire humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“By lifting the blockade, the [Azerbaijani] authorities can alleviate the suffering of thousands of people in Nagorno-Karabakh and allow for the unimpeded flow of humanitarian assistance to the civilian population,” the experts said. “It is essential to ensure the safety, dignity, and well-being of all individuals during this critical time.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly Armenian-populated mountainous enclave that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan. The most recent war lasted six weeks in late 2020 and left 7,000 soldiers dead on both sides.

As a result of the war, Azerbaijan regained control over a part of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts. The war ended with a Russian-brokered cease-fire under which Moscow deployed about 2,000 troops to serve as peacekeepers.

With reporting by Reuters

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