Ararat Mirzoyan addresses U.N. Security Council (Armenia Foreign Ministry, August 16)
Armenia called on the United Nations to prevent genocide in blockaded Artsakh during an emergency meeting convened by the U.N. Security Council today.
“I do believe that this distinguished body, despite geopolitical differences, has the capacity to act as a genocide prevention body and not a genocide commemoration body when it might be too late,” Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said.
The meeting was scheduled following an appeal from the government of Armenia to address the “deterioration of the humanitarian situation” in Artsakh. Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh has been ongoing since December 12, 2022, when government-sponsored protesters posing as eco-activists closed the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor, the sole route connecting Artsakh with Armenia and the rest of the world. The blockade was tightened on April 23, 2023, when Azerbaijan set up an illegal military checkpoint along the corridor, placing all movement between Armenia and Artsakh under the control of Azerbaijani border guards.
Artsakh leadership and international actors have warned that the humanitarian crisis in Artsakh is deteriorating significantly. Food, medicine and other basic supplies, which were already limited due to the blockade, have dwindled since Azerbaijani border guards barred deliveries of humanitarian aid in mid-June, which were previously supplied by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Russian peacekeeping mission. Azerbaijan has also blocked the ICRC from transporting patients requiring medical assistance to Armenia several times in the past two months.
Several U.N. Security Council member countries called for the immediate resumption of humanitarian aid deliveries to Artsakh by the ICRC.
“It is incumbent on the parties not to impede or politicize any principled humanitarian efforts,” said Edem Wosornu, the director of operations and advocacy of the U.N. Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. “Responding to humanitarian needs is not an act of legitimization of recognition. It does not take sides, and it does not yield to political influence,” Wosornu said, calling for humanitarian aid deliveries “through any available routes.”
The Azerbaijani government has proposed delivering humanitarian assistance to Artsakh via its territory through the Azerbaijani-controlled city Agdam. Artsakh’s leadership has rejected this offer, stating that there can be no alternative to reopening the Berdzor Corridor.
Several member countries noted the possibility of delivering humanitarian aid via Agdam during today’s U.N. Security Council meeting. Dmitry Polyanskiy, deputy permanent representative of Russia to the U.N., said his country supports the use of alternative routes for the delivery of humanitarian aid, particularly the “opening of a parallel corridor through Agdam and Lachin for the movement of civilians and cargo.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the United States ambassador to the U.N., acknowledged the “possibility of compromise on additional routes for humanitarian supplies.” “Neutral, impartial, humane and independent humanitarian access and assistance, including medical transfers, must not be hindered, full stop,” she said.
Silvio Gonzato, deputy head of the European Union delegation to the U.N., said that the EU has “taken note of the expressed readiness of Azerbaijani authorities to supply goods via the city Agdam. However, this should not be seen as an alternative to the opening of the Lachin Corridor.”
Yashar Aliyev, permanent representative of Azerbaijan to the U.N., accused Armenia of rejecting the offer to deliver goods through Agdam, which he called evidence of Armenia’s “political hypocrisy.” “If Armenia were genuinely concerned about ordinary residents of the region, it would have never objected to the usage of the Agdam-Khankendi [Stepanakert] road,” Aliyev said.
He claimed that international actors, including Russian peacekeepers and the ICRC, had reached an agreement to open traffic along this road. However, the agreement did not materialize due to Armenia’s objections.
Mirzoyan said that there is “no alternative” to the Lachin Corridor, which he called the “agreed link between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Mirzoyan also quoted former Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Luis Moreno Ocampo’s expert opinion from August 7 arguing that genocide is already underway in Artsakh. “There are no crematories, and there are no machete attacks. Starvation is the invisible Genocide weapon. Without immediate dramatic change, this group of Armenians will be destroyed in a few weeks,” Ocampo warned.
Just one day prior to the U.N. Security Council meeting, the first case of death by starvation was recorded in Artsakh since the start of the region’s ongoing blockade by Azerbaijan.
Hemodialysis patients in Stepanakert (Artsakh Health Ministry)
40-year-old Karo Hovhannisyan died of “chronic malnutrition” and “protein and energy deficiency,” the Artsakh Human Rights Defender’s Office said on August 15. The office attributed his death to the “catastrophic consequences of the ongoing eight-month blockade of Artsakh by Azerbaijan.”
It added that the blockade primarily affected the “health situation of the most vulnerable groups in society – children, pregnant women, people with chronic diseases, people with disabilities and older persons.”
Health conditions have been deteriorating among Artsakh’s population. The Artsakh Health Ministry attributes worsening health indicators to the shortage of medicine and medical supplies, inadequate nutrition, stress, suspension of scheduled surgeries and restricted access to medical care in Armenia, all caused by the blockade.
The Health Ministry has warned that medical supplies needed for hemodialysis will run out before the end of the month. The ministry appealed to the ICRC to conduct emergency evacuations of hemodialysis patients to specialized facilities in Armenia, warning that patients can die after a week of not receiving necessary treatment for kidney failure. Of the 41 patients receiving hemodialysis, 29 were evacuated to Armenia as of August 15. The remaining patients refused to be transferred, either because they have minor children at home or they are wheelchair-bound.
“I am bedridden. I have a caregiver at home. I want to live,” said 64-year-old Vera Hovsepyan, who has been receiving hemodialysis for the past five years. “I can’t go to Yerevan in this state and receive treatment, because I want to die in my wheelchair here in Artsakh and be buried in my own cemetery.”
“Patients who suffer from the terminal stage of acute and chronic kidney failure have been severely affected by the blockade as they can’t follow a special diet, adding additional dangers for their life and health,” said Kristine Avagimyan, head of the hemodialysis department at the Stepanakert hospital.
Other health indicators have also worsened significantly since the start of the blockade, especially since June, when Azerbaijan prohibited the delivery of humanitarian aid to the region.
Deaths due to cardiovascular diseases more than doubled in July compared to the same month last year, according to official data.
Deaths caused by malignant neoplasms, or cancerous tumors, have increased by more than 15-percent so far in 2023 compared to the same time period last year. Newly diagnosed cases of malignant neoplasms have increased by more than 24-percent. Health authorities attribute this data to the shortage of medication, changes in quality of life and severe limitations on adequate medical assistance.
The incidence of strokes has increased by 26-percent, and heart attacks, by nearly 10-percent.
Pregnant women have been especially vulnerable to the detrimental effects of the blockade on the healthcare system. Health officials have recorded cases of anemia among 90-percent of pregnant women under medical observation this year. This is a result of inadequate nutrition and a shortage of medication.
There has also been an increase in the number of stillbirths. Most recently, a pregnant woman in the Haterk village of the Martakert region could not reach the hospital in time, due to the fuel shortage for ambulances, and lost her baby.
“The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Artsakh warns that in the event of the continued full siege of Artsakh by Azerbaijan, the mentioned and other indicators will further worsen, leading to the loss of many lives or a deterioration in their health,” the Artsakh Health Ministry said on August 8.
ICRC vehicles in Stepanakert (NKR InfoCenter)