"Blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh designed to allow ethnic cleansing"
Armenia's representative on international legal matters told the judges at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) on Monday that a blockade in Nagorno-Karabakh by a group of state-sponsored Azerbaijanis is designed to allow "ethnic cleansing."
The Lachin corridor, the only route whereby Armenia can provide food, fuel and medicine supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh, has been blocked since 12 December by dozens of Azerbaijanis who claim that they are environmental activists protesting against illegal mining operations in the region, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but home to around 120,000 Armenians.
Monday's hearing at the ICJ, a principal organ of the United Nations for settling disputes between states in accordance with international law, was called to hear an Armenian request for the court to order Azerbaijan to lift the blockade.
Armenia's representative, Yeghishe Kirakosyan, told the court the blockade had led to food rationing and dwindling medicine supplies in Nagorno-Karabakh, while Azerbaijan authorities said the ethnic Armenians were free to leave.
"Such blatant acts of ethnic cleansing have no place in the modern era and this court is the last hope for the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh," Kirakosyan said.
Constantinos Salonidis, a lawyer for Armenia, told the court: "Nothing short of a full lifting of the blockade and unhindered resumption of the provision of public utilities will bring relief to the victims of this cruel and unnecessary blockade."
The hearing at the ICJ is part of a larger case that Armenia filed in 2020 saying that Azerbaijan has breached a convention against racial discrimination. Baku has filed a counterclaim alleging that it is Armenia, not Azerbaijan, which is breaching the discrimination convention.
The European Parliament earlier adopted a resolution on 19 January on the humanitarian consequences of the blockade in Nagorno-Karabakh, noting that "the blockade has led to a severe humanitarian crisis, significantly affecting the most vulnerable populations."