Speech of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan at the UN Security Council urgent meeting

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16 August, 2023

Madam President,

Distinguished colleagues,

I would like to thank the Security Council for convening this urgent meeting to discuss the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh stemming from the 8-months long blockade of the Lachin corridor – the road of life connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia and the outer world.

Today I’m here to seek the support of this august body in maintaining the prospect of reaching just and comprehensive peace and stability in our region, which is seriously undermined by Azerbaijan with the humanitarian calamity on the ground in Nagorno-Karabakh.

During the last two years, Armenia, with the help of the international community, spared no efforts to establish peace and stability in our region. And I believe, today we still have the opportunity to reach this aim. But the current humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh has the full potential to deteriorate the prospects for peace in the whole region of South Caucasus and even beyond.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Today, I would like to elaborate, suggesting you to judge not based on justifications that you might consider being true or false, but on values and facts.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights starts with recognition of the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. Irrespective of their residence, all human beings are entitled to human rights and dignity, they should be treated with highest respect and care, even at time of war. Unfortunately, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are deprived of such treatment, finding themselves in a condition of a total siege.

Now, let me present the events, facts and figures which show the current realities in blockaded Nagorno-Karabakh.

So, November 9, 2020 – Trilateral statement signed by the leaders of Armenia, Russia and Azerbaijan, according to Paragraph 6 of which “The Lachin Corridor (5 km wide), which will provide a connection between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia…, shall remain under the control of the Russian Federation peacekeeping forces.”

December 12, 2022 – Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin corridor under a fake pretext of environmental concerns. Since then, gradual utilization of limited domestic stocks has resulted in an acute food shortage and closures of stores. Prior to the blockade, around 90% of all consumed food was imported from Armenia, and with every passing day, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh don’t receive 400 tons of essential goods daily. Currently, there is a severe lack of food, including nutrition for kids, flour, sugar, as well as medicine, fuel etc. Moreover, due to the absence of fuel and targeting of workers by Azerbaijan almost all agricultural work has halted. As a result, approximately 10,000 hectares of land adjacent to the contact line remain uncultivated.

December 20, 2022 – The UN Security Council discussed the issue for the first time and the vast majority of council members called Azerbaijan to lift the blockade.

Since December, 2022 periodically and March, 2023 completely (in sum for around 180 days) – Azerbaijan disrupted the only supply of natural gas to Nagorno-Karabakh. Halting the gas supply has already led to a number of adverse humanitarian consequences, such as: (1) disruption of the work of hospitals, (2) disruption of the educational process at the schools and kindergartens, (3) disruption of the work of vitally important institutions and social services, (4) inability of people to heat their homes, (5) loss of the access of many households to hot water, (6) lack of fuel for vehicles, etc.

Since January 9, 2023 (now more than 210 days) – Azerbaijan has disrupted the supply of electricity through the sole high-voltage line between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Since then, relying on limited local resources of electricity, Nagorno-Karabakh had to implement rolling power outages with only a few hours of energy supply.

February 22, 2023 – The International Court of Justice indicated a provisional measure in the ongoing case concerning the Application of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Armenia v. Azerbaijan), according to which Azerbaijan shall “take all measures to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions”.

April 23, 2023 – Azerbaijan, in violation of the ICJ decision and the Trilateral Statement of November 9, 2020, installed a checkpoint in the Lachin corridor.

June 15, 2023 – Azerbaijan went further with fully blocking the Lachin corridor by banning any access to Nagorno-Karabakh, even humanitarian, including of the International Committee of Red Cross.

July 6, 2023 – The International Court of Justice reconfirmed its provisional measure from February 22, 2023.

July 25, 2023 – ICRC, the only international humanitarian organization that has been operating in Nagorno-Karabakh for more than 30 years, stated: “despite persistent efforts, the ICRC is not currently able to bring humanitarian assistance to the civilian population through the Lachin corridor or through any other routes.”.

July 26, 2023 – The Republic of Armenia sent a humanitarian convoy, which up to now remains at the entrance of the Lachin corridor, as the Azerbaijani side denies the access.

August 2, 2023 – The UN Secretary-General reiterated his deep concern over the challenges related to the freedom of movement along the Lachin corridor, recalling the previous statement on the need to implement the Orders of the ICJ, “including the Orders issued on 22 February 2023 and reaffirmed on 6 July 2023, related to measures to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin corridor in both directions”. The Secretary-General further expressed particular concern about the deteriorating humanitarian situation on the ground and called for “urgent steps to facilitate access for the delivery of humanitarian assistance to people in need”.

August 7, 2023 – A group of the UN human rights experts: the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, the Special Rapporteur on the right to education, the Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons and the Special Rapporteur on the rights of persons with disabilities expressed alarm over the ongoing blockade of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan and the dire humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, which “has left the population facing acute shortages” and “placed the lives of the residents – especially children, persons with disabilities, older persons, pregnant women, and the sick – at significant risk.”

To sum up, due to the blockade, there is no economic activity in Nagorno-Karabakh. Thousands of people are left unemployed, as there is no possibility to pay the salaries. Even those people that have money are not able to buy anything, as the shelves in the stores are empty. Women, children, elderly stay in long queues in order to be able to buy some bread or fruits and vegetables. Sometimes they have to pass dozens of kilometres on foot to reach empty shops and pharmacies. The authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh had to issue ration coupons for certain food products, including rice, porridge, sugar, etc. There is a real threat of hunger.

Here are some other figures:

“120.000” – This is the number of people living in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is deprived to exercise their basic human rights.

“20.000” – the number of elderly people, who are even unable to move due to the absence of public transportation.

“30.000” – the number of children living in Nagorno-Karabakh, who are struggling from malnutrition and lack of food.

“270”- the number of children who are not able to return and reunite with their families in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“2.000” – the number of pregnant women residing in Nagorno-Karabakh who don’t have even basic access to health care.

“9.000” – the number of people with disabilities, who are deprived of proper medical care.

“4.700” and “8.450” – the number of people with diabetes and circulatory diseases, respectively, who are running out of essential medicine.

All these events have doubled the rate of deaths in Nagorno-Karabakh for the past 8 months. Furthermore, the absence of medicine, sanitizers and other items of hygiene create risks of epidemics.

“710” – The total number of the patients and their accompanying persons evacuated by the ICRC throughout the whole period of blockade that went through a humiliating procedure of proving their health condition in order to get “permission” to be evacuated.

1 – A man with a very concrete name and surname – Vagif Khachatrian, who was abducted at the checkpoint being transported by the ICRC to Armenia for heart surgery. He was abducted while being under international humanitarian protection. This is by far not the only incident when Azerbaijan intentionally obstructed the work of the ICRC.

Again, 1 – Another man with a very concrete name and surname – Karо Hovhannisyan, who passed away yesterday. And according to the autopsy report, he died because of starvation and lasting malnutrition.

2 – 3 years old Leo and 6 years old Gita who died in Martakert, as their mom had to leave them alone to go on foot to the nearby town with a hope to find some food for them.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

During the previous months, many of you tried to address the issue of opening the Lachin corridor. However, despite all the calls, the commitments undertaken by the Trilateral statement from November 9, 2020, the legally binding orders of the ICJ the situation did not improve on the ground. Quite contrary, Azerbaijan incrementally but consistently severed the blockade to the degree of complete siege of Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenia raised its concerns on deepening the humanitarian crisis as a result of closure of the Lachin corridor in all negotiations with Azerbaijan, which were separately facilitated and mediated by the United States of America, European Union, Russia. And yet to no avail.

Throughout this time, Azerbaijan’s engagement has been anything but not in good faith. Back to the first discussion on this issue in the Security Council, Azerbaijan denied any responsibility on the actions thereon and even claimed that it was not controlling the Lachin corridor. Throughout the past eight months, Azerbaijan brought a number of pretexts aimed at justifying its actions. First, it was so-called eco-activists with environmental concerns, then baseless allegations of transporting arms through the Lachin corridor, furthermore military provocations and so on.

The Lachin corridor has been agreed as a link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh and has no alternative. The Lachin corridor should be opened, and when it comes to other possible communications, this should be addressed within an international mechanism of Baku-Stepanakert dialogue.

So, today I am here to seek your support to address issues of very humanitarian nature and we expect from this Council:

to condemn the use of starvation of civilians as a method of warfare, prohibited by international law;

to condemn the unlawful denial of humanitarian access and depriving the civilian population in Nagorno-Karabakh of objects indispensable to their survival, including willfully impeding relief supply and access for responses to conflict‑induced food insecurity;

to demand full compliance with obligations under the international humanitarian law, including those related to the protection of civilians, in particular women and children, and critical civilian infrastructure;

to call for the immediate restoration of freedom and security of movement of persons, vehicles and cargo, in line with the previously reached agreements, through the Lachin corridor;

to ensure full cooperation of the parties in good faith with the International Committee of the Red Cross and safe and unimpeded delivery of humanitarian assistance;

to dispatch an independent inter-agency needs assessment mission in Nagorno-Karabakh and provide humanitarian assistance to the affected population.

These humanitarian issues clearly need to be resolved with the international community’s strong intervention before the negative consequences result in ethnic cleansing of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. According to the elected representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh, “This is a deliberately engineered crime, driven by evident genocidal intent. The Azerbaijani authorities purposefully instigated the blockade of the Lachin corridor, with the knowledge that it would subject the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh to a gradual demise, yet chose to persist with this course of action.”

At the same time, the report of International Criminal Court former prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo reflects that it is already a genocide that is happening in Nagorno-Karabakh. According to Mr. Ocampo, “The blockade of the Lachin corridor by the Azerbaijani security forces impeding access to any food, medical supplies, and other essentials should be considered a Genocide under Article II, (c) of the Genocide Convention: “Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction. Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks.”

Distinguished Council, the prevention of such a catastrophe is a core duty of the United Nations and this Council. I do believe that this distinguished body, despite of geopolitical differences, has capacity to act as genocide prevention body and not as genocide commemoration, when it might be too late.

In conclusion, I would like to come back to the very beginning of my intervention. One of the most important principles of the United Nations is leaving no one behind and Edwin 4 years old, Anastasia 6 years old, Maria 7 years old, David 5 years old, Tatev 5 years old, Samvel 8 years old and many others still have a hope that they will not be left behind.

Thank you.

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