By Nathaniel Hill
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (left), Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev (right), and U.S. State Secretary Antony Blinken (center) attend trilateral talks in Munich on February 18.
Genocide Watch is issuing a Genocide Emergency for Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade against the Armenian-populated region of Artsakh. The blockade has created a dire humanitarian crisis among the 120,000 people living in Artsakh and is a clear attempt by the Azerbaijani government to starve, freeze, and ultimately expel Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh.
The blockade began on December 12th when a group of state-sponsored protestors blocked the only road into Artsakh known as the Lachin Corridor. The protestors gave the excuse that they were protesting the illegal mining of gold and copper-molybdenum in Nagorno-Karabakh and the use of the corridor to transport the minerals to Armenia. The Russian peacekeeping force along the corridor has been unwilling to keep the road open.
The blockade has cut off food, medicine, and other supplies to Artsakh. Armenians in Artsakh are experiencing severe shortages of necessities. Azerbaijan has repeatedly turned off the supply of natural gas and electricity to Artsakh, subjecting its people to freezing temperatures.
The longer the blockade continues, the risk of starvation increases. Starvation is an act of genocide under Genocide Convention Article 2(c): "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."
The international response to the blockade has been tepid. Decisive diplomatic action is needed to pressure Azerbaijan into reopening the Lachin corridor. There is a high risk of more aggressive attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenia and Artsakh. During Russia's aggression in Ukraine, many diplomats hold out little hope that Russia will intervene to end the blockade. European nations that depend on Azerbaijan for gas and oil are reluctant to alienate its government.
The blockade is coupled with Azerbaijan's aggressive use of hate speech against ethnic Armenians and the brutal suppression of dissent in Azerbaijan. Genocide Watch considers the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh to be at Stages 8: Persecution, Stage 9: Extermination, and Stage 10: Denial
Genocide Watch Recommends:
· The US, EU, and UN should demand the immediate reopening of the Lachin Corridor.
· An EU and UN airlift of humanitarian supplies into Artsakh should begin.
· The recently created European Union missions in Nagorno-Karabakh should be given an expanded mandate and resources to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.
· The EU, US, and UN should diplomatically promote peace negotiations between Armenia, Artsakh, and Azerbaijan.
· The US should sanction Azerbaijan under Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.