Azerbaijan’s illegal and unethical closure of the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) to the outside world has now entered its first month. The blockade is complete: no-one and nothing is permitted to enter or exit the Armenian-populated enclave in the South Caucasus.

A group of Azeris claiming to be environmental activists maintain the blockade as the humanitarian situation worsens day by day for more than 120,000 men, women and children under siege, deprived of the most basic supplies as they celebrated Armenian Christmas. Make no mistake. Investigations by organisations such as Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty reveal a link between the so-called ‘eco-activists’ and the Government of Azerbaijan.

As evidenced by calls with the besieged, the empty shelves of supermarkets, fruit, vegetables, dairy products, sugar, salt, you name it, Arstakh does not have it. Local production cannot meet the needs of the population. Telecommunications are the only way to contact the Armenians of Artsakh.

The killings of civilians, infrastructure disruptions, cuts of energy supplies, harassment of agricultural activity, and psychological pressure from the Azerbaijani authorities are reminiscent of the tactics employed by Ankara towards the enclaved Christians of occupied Cyprus. The aim is clear: to force out any person seen by the Turkish and Azeri states as enemies.

The Artsakh blockade. Photo: Armenian National Committee of Australia/Supplied

Since the blockade was imposed on Monday 12 December 2022, the deterioration of the situation accelerates every day which passes, in the depths of a Caucasus winter. Despite the 2020 Ceasefire Agreement ceding control of the Lachin Corridor, the ‘umbilical cord’ of Artsakh and her people, to Russian peacekeepers, the blockade continues.

Before 12 December 2022, 400 tons of food and other essentials such as medications entered Artsakh every day. Since that day, the only exception was on Sunday 25 December where the International Red Cross was to secure passage of ten tons of medicines, hospital food, baby food after intense negotiations.

Artsakh’s Ministry of Health estimated these supplies ran out about ten days later.

On Wednesday 4 January, the International Committee of the Red Cross mediated the transfer of another two patients from Artsakh to Armenia, Artsakh’s health ministry said, explaining that one patient has a brain tumor and the other suffers from ocular melanoma, or eye cancer.

Risk of genocide

In their statement published on 24 October 2022, the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) Executive Board condemning the latest Azerbaijani Aggression against the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh, whilst raising severe concern over the risk of Genocide against Armenians in the region.

This statement, from the foremost global historical authority on genocides, has explicitly detailed the incursion and assault against the sovereign borders of Armenia before addressing the body’s concerns that “significant genocide risk factors exist in the Nagorno-Karabakh situation concerning the Armenian population”.

An Azeri woman lighting candles at the Artsakh blockade. Photo: Armenian National Committee of Australia/Supplied

In their statement, the IAGS Executive Board also addressed the public and indisputable hate speech and hate propaganda by Azerbaijani authorities targeting Armenians. The statement acknowledges that comments made by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev such as “Armenia as a country is of no value. It is actually a colony, an outpost run from abroad, a territory artificially created on ancient Azerbaijani lands” explicitly violate the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) and are statements that risk inciting genocide and international crimes.

Read the full statement here.


International organizations such as Human Rights Watch have denounced that Artsakh’s indigenous inhabitants have once again been deprived of natural gas for days, at the whim of Azerbaijan.

The Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe emphasised “the importance of guaranteeing free and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance and international human rights missions to all areas and people, including those residing in Nagorno-Karabakh,” in its declaration of 20 December 2022.

Restoration of free movement to and from Artsakh was also on the agenda of the emergency meeting of the UN Security Council the same day, where there were explicit calls for the immediate and unconditional reopening of the Lachin Corridor.

What is needed now is “real action on the ground”, Artsakh’s Ombudsman Mr Gegham Stepanyan told an online meeting of the Australian Friends of Artsakh. Stepanyan was speaking from Yerevan as he is one of 1,100 people unable to return home due to the blockade.

Through State Department spokesman Ned Price, the United States again called for the complete restoration of free movement through the Lachin Corridor. “We remain concerned about impeded access to the Lachin Corridor and the humanitarian implications of this situation. This sets back the peace process and undermines international confidence. We call for the full restoration of free movement through the corridor. The way forward for all issues is through negotiations,” Price said.

The State Department spokesperson did not directly call on Azerbaijan to take steps to end the blockade.

A protest action of students from Artsakh in Yerevan on Christmas Day 2022. Photo: AAP/Aleksandr Patrin/Kommersant/Sipa USA

Russia’s Defense Ministry said that the command of its peacekeeping contingent was continuing negotiations with Azerbaijan to “restore traffic on the Stepanakert-Goris road”, claiming that its peacekeeping contingent “continues to perform its tasks” that reportedly include round the clock monitoring of 30 posts to ensure that the “ceasefire is being maintained.”

Immediately after the end of fighting on Cyprus in August 1974, there were about 12,300 enclaved Christians in the Turkish-occupied areas. In 2022, there are barely 300 remaining. Since 1974, the United Nations has maintained its peacekeeping contingent along the euphemistically called ‘Green Line’ which divides Cyprus. North of that line are the villages of the enclaved Christian Cypriots.

Public statements in support of Artsakh are welcome. Now is the time for public action in support of Artsakh. Words are not enough.

Dr Panayiotis Diamadis is the Director and Dr Darren O’Brien is the President of the Australian Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies