The Red Cross: Badly needed food, medicine shipped to Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region

by Andrew Wright
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In a critical development, the International Committee of the Red Cross announced on Monday that it has dispatched essential supplies, including flour and medical provisions, to the Nagorno-Karabakh region, an ethnic Armenian enclave located within Azerbaijan. This region has endured a prolonged blockade on its main access route since late last year.

Nagorno-Karabakh has remained under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, with support from Armenia, since the conclusion of a separatist conflict in 1994. These forces also extended their control to substantial territories beyond Nagorno-Karabakh itself. However, in a six-week conflict in 2020, Azerbaijan managed to regain control of these territories.

The pivotal consequence of this conflict was the severe restriction of Nagorno-Karabakh’s connectivity to Armenia, with only a single road link remaining intact. In December, Azerbaijan imposed significant restrictions on this road, alleging that Armenia was using it for unauthorized arms shipments and resource extraction.

This closure has resulted in acute shortages of food and necessities for the approximately 120,000 inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh. Azerbaijan proposed an alternative route to supply the region, but Nagorno-Karabakh authorities resisted, expressing concerns that this move was a strategic ploy by Azerbaijan to assert control over the region.

In this recent development, flour has been transported through the route from Armenia, while medical and hygiene supplies have been brought in from Azerbaijan, according to the ICRC. Ariane Bauer, ICRC’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia, expressed relief that humanitarian assistance will finally reach those in dire need. She emphasized the pressing need for consistent humanitarian deliveries, citing shortages in medical supplies and long bread queues as urgent issues.

However, David Babayan, a spokesperson for the Nagorno-Karabakh president, cautioned that these shipments do not signify a complete reopening of the roads. He described Monday’s deliveries as “a small drop of aid” and mentioned that around 20 tons of flour were received from the Armenian side.

Notably, last month, Armenia requested an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council to address the humanitarian challenges faced by the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. This move underscores the gravity of the situation and the international community’s recognition of the need for immediate action.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Humanitarian Aid Nagorno-Karabakh

What is the significance of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) shipping aid to Nagorno-Karabakh?

The ICRC’s shipment of aid to Nagorno-Karabakh is of paramount significance because it addresses a critical humanitarian crisis. The region has been under a road blockade since late last year, leading to severe food and medical shortages for its 120,000 residents. The ICRC’s intervention provides essential relief to those in desperate need.

Why was Nagorno-Karabakh under a road blockade?

The road blockade was imposed on Nagorno-Karabakh due to allegations that Armenia was using the road for illicit weapons shipments and mineral extraction. Azerbaijan, which regained control of the region in a 2020 conflict, largely blocked the road in response to these allegations.

What is the current state of connectivity to Nagorno-Karabakh?

As of now, Nagorno-Karabakh still has limited road connectivity. While the recent aid shipments have temporarily eased the situation, the roads are not fully open. Authorities remain cautious about the region’s security and sovereignty.

Why did Nagorno-Karabakh authorities resist using an alternative road proposed by Azerbaijan?

Nagorno-Karabakh authorities resisted using the alternative road proposed by Azerbaijan because they perceived it as a strategic move by Azerbaijan to exert control over the region. There were concerns that accepting this route could compromise Nagorno-Karabakh’s autonomy and security.

What prompted Armenia to request a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting?

Armenia requested a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting to address the humanitarian conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh. This indicates the seriousness of the situation and seeks international attention and assistance to alleviate the challenges faced by the people in the region.

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