UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called on Azerbaijan to comply with a UN court order to restore “unimpeded” traffic through the sole road connecting Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) to Armenia.
“He recalls that decisions of the International Court of Justice (IJC) are binding and trusts that the parties will implement its Orders, including the Order related to measures to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions,” a spokeswoman for Guterres, Stephane Dujarric, said in a weekend statement.
“The Secretary-General expresses the hope that Armenia and Azerbaijan will continue working to improve their bilateral relations and strongly encourages a constructive dialogue,” added Dujarric.
In a “provisional measure” requested by Armenia, the ICJ acknowledged last Wednesday that the land link was “disrupted” by Azerbaijani protesters more than two months ago. It said Baku should “take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions.”
Guterres, who already urged an end to the Azerbaijani blockade of the corridor in December, spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian by phone hours after the announcement of the ICJ order.
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov reiterated on Saturday Baku’s claims that traffic through the lifeline road was never blocked.
The blockade has led to severe shortages of food, medicine and other essential items in Karabakh. They have been compounded by Baku’s disruption of Armenia’s electricity and natural gas supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh.
An Azerbaijani-controlled section of the high-voltage transmission line supplying the electricity was knocked down on January 9. There have been daily power cuts in Karabakh since then.
According to the authorities in Stepanakert, Azerbaijani officials promised on Friday to unblock the energy supplies during a rare meeting with Karabakh Armenian representatives mediated by Russian peacekeepers. Baku did not comment on the information.
The meeting came one day after the Karabakh president, Arayik Harutiunian, announced the dismissal of his chief minister, Ruben Vardanyan, which was demanded by Baku throughout the blockade.
Vardanyan was appointed to the second-highest post in Karabakh’s leadership last November two months after renouncing his Russian citizenship. Baku condemned his appointment, saying that it was engineered by Russia. Moscow denied that.