Armenia’s Existential Crisis: Understanding the Siege of Artsakh

Sept 12 2023

Armenia is facing another existential crisis.

Azerbaijan is blockading the small statelet of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), preventing medical, fuel, and food supplies from entering the country. An emboldened Ilham Aliyev is taking advantage of this situation to stoke the flames of prejudice and push Azeri forces into Armenia proper.


The Consequences of War

The Second Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in 2020 forced Artsakh’s president, Arayik Harutyunyan, to cede large portions of territory to Azerbaijan for the first time in decades. Azeri forces, equipped with firepower and mercenaries from neighbouring Turkey, pushed deep into the statelet, taking multiple cities from Armenian forces. Azeri forces left a trail of atrocities during the month-long engagement. At the end of the war, Armenia’s “friend” Russia brokered a tenuous ceasefire agreement that left Artsakh crippled and Armenia in a state of shock.

Armenia’s prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, called the arrangement at the time, “unbelievably painful for me and my people.”  The agreement left Artsakh with four key cities and dozens of villages lost to Azeri occupation. A disinterested Putin gave the security of Armenia to the authoritarian leader of Azerbaijan and by extension Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while Armenians were left with nothing but occupation. The importance of this agreement cannot be understated because the conditions agreed therein, such as Clause 9 stating that, “all economic and transport connections in the region shall be unblocked” have yet to be honoured.

Russian peacekeepers deployed to disputed areas around Artsakh are failing to maintain the peace; Azeri forces have attacked regions such as Martuni with artillery and harassed Armenian forces to test the limits of the ceasefire. Aliyev’s forces are empowered to do this by the change in attitude of Putin. Despite Armenia being part of the CSTO (Collective Security Treaty Organisation), Putin is pivoting towards Azerbaijan in diplomatic and economic matters, while sidelining Armenia.

Pashinyan, echoing the sentiment of many Armenians that feel Russia is not taking their concerns seriously, voiced the possibility of Armenia leaving the CSTO in May. Speaking to Yerevan media and quoted by the Moscow Times, Pashinyan said that “I am not ruling out that Armenia will take a decision to withdraw from the CSTO…” The reason for the bulk of discontent with Moscow is because of a lack of action that Russian peacekeepers are taking in the emerging humanitarian crisis in Artsakh.


The Lachin Corridor Crisis

The Lachin corridor that connects Artsakh with Armenia, and the outside world has been blocked since December 12. Azeri agitators operating under the veil of eco-activists have blocked the only road into the enclave. This agitation is a deliberate provocation by the Azerbaijan government to constrain 120,000 residents in a show of force to Yerevan and Stepanakert. Azeri forces are bolstering the blockade through deployment of forces, cutting off gas supply and creating a security checkpoint to regulate traffic into the region to suffocate Artsakh. This is despite the ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in the Hague to unblock the road in late February this year.

What is the justification from Baku for this?

Azerbaijan wants to reclaim control over the corridor and pressure the parties to the original agreement to acquiesce to Azerbaijan’s revanchist claims over Artsakh. This provocation is just a continuation of a series of moves that Aliyev feels empowered to make in the wake of Baku’s victory in 2020 and Moscow’s embroilment in Ukraine. It is a provocation impacting the lives of Armenians, disregarding international humanitarian norms, and showing the world the extreme nature of Azerbaijan’s war against its neighbour.


Growing Anti-Armenian Sentiment

Aliyev’s victory over Artsakh is emboldening a new wave of anti-Armenian sentiment, with the long-standing leader of Azerbaijan increasing his genocidal rhetoric against Armenians. The war had offered a new vehicle for the Azerbaijan government’s longstanding prejudice. An example of this is on full show with Baku’s “Military Trophies Park” where adults and children can walk around displays that dehumanise Armenian soldiers and include the real helmets of dead Armenians. Visitors to the museum can see the victory of Azeri soldiers over the destroyed vehicles, helmets, and equipment of Armenians in what can only be best described as a public show of jingoist hatred.

In December, during the start of the blockade, Aliyev proclaimed to the nation in a speech that, “present-day Armenia is our land” and, “When I repeatedly said this before, they tried to object and allege that I have territorial claims. I am saying this as a historical fact. If someone can substantiate a different theory, let them come forward.”

These irredentist claims set forth by Aliyev makeup the Baku government’s new, “Great Return” policy. The policy that is ongoing aims to resettle Azeri people onto Armenian land under the guise of restoring “Western Azerbaijan” to its “former” glory. Aliyev is sending thousands of Azeris to resettle Artsakh and take the homes of former Armenian residents.

Last month on a visit to the newly incorporated city of Lachin, Aliyev told residents that Armenians living in Artsakh “either…will come to us humbly, or events will develop in a different direction”.  This is important to note, because Aliyev is not joking with these words and his government is enacting policies designed to change the demographics of the region—in other words, ethnic cleansing. Every action, including the blockade, is a message to Yerevan and to the people of Armenia that they are not welcome in the region.


The Fear of Genocide

The Armenian people suffered one of the greatest genocides in history. What they see happening in Artsakh is an occupying power that threatens to erase the Armenian identity.

“We are not speaking about political or inter-ethnic conflict, we are talking about ongoing process of genocide, and not just its preparation.” Pashinyan told AFP in a recent interview in July, referring to the situation in Artsakh.

The prime minister is not exaggerating the situation with this hyperbolic phrasing. Officials from the International Association of Genocide Scholars (IAGS) are noting that the actions of the Azeri government with its rhetoric, blockade and atrocities towards Armenians are “significant genocide risk factors.” It is not an exaggeration then to state that the actions of the Azeri government are deepening this concern.

People are rallying to speak out against the blockade in the streets of Stepanakert left unoccupied by Azerbaijan. Loved ones in neighbouring Armenia are showing an outcry of support for those facing starvation in the fledgling republic. I spoke with Ani Poghosyan, an Armenian Human Rights advocate and producer who has long been following this situation from its onset. I asked her what she would like the world to know about what is going on…

“The disregard of Artsakh and Armenia is very shortsighted.” She went on to say: “It’s terribly shocking and heartbreaking just how lonely and abandoned Armenians are in their fight against a dictatorship the brutality of which at times far exceeds that of Russia. If we as a global community are to stand for what is right (just as we are rightfully doing so for Ukraine), then we should be very straightforward and bold in the pushback against the dictatorship of Baku. Abandoning of principles for shortsighted interests is like opening Pandora’s box.”

Ani’s concerns represent the concerns of many Armenians trapped in Artsakh and those in neighbouring Armenia including those in the international diasporas abroad. Armenians are doing their part to raise awareness of a critical situation developing in their homeland. Armenian National Committee of America is just one organisation amongst many that is currently providing members of Congress and public officials information on the situation in Artsakh.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Robert Menendez is one official that is vocal about the situation in the region. Speaking about the blocking of International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) aid workers to the Lachin Corridor by Azeri troops, Menendez said the following:

“More than 7 months into Azerbaijan’s blockade, the time is now for the US & its allies to exert pressure on Aliyev. Lives hang in the Balance.”

Menendez’s sentiment reflects growing concern within Congress of the need for action against the Azeri government for this affront to international norms and violation of human rights.


What Should Be Done?

The current situation in Artsakh is at a critical juncture.

Tens of thousands of people are cut off from aid. International aid organisations such as the ICRC are unable to move through the Lachin corridor. Requests from legal bodies like the ICJ and European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) to unblock the passage are being ignored by Azeri authorities. Armenian interlocutors in Yerevan and Stepanakert are left now with little option but public appeal.

There are still options available to the international community to stop the situation from escalating. These actions are complicated to enact but involve measures that aim to open the corridor and address the situation directly.

Artsakh is still not recognised as an independent polity by the international community. The non-recognition of Artsakh is used to bar the government in Stepanakert from negotiations over the Nagorno-Karabakh. Appealing to the United Nations General Assembly or more importantly the Security Council to recognise a viable way forward to acknowledge the self-determination of the people of Artsakh and arrange a formal treaty to protect those people’s rights. If this is not possible to do, then an action in remedial secession should be supported.

Remedial secession refers to the act of a region, territory or aspiring state seeking unilateral secession from a parent state in response to grievous human rights abuses or systemic discrimination to its population. It is a controversial position to support since it directly challenges the principle of territorial integrity of the parent state, but if negotiations and other peaceful measures are not sought, then remedial secession may become a viable last resort option.  The most notable case of this was when Kosovo enacted remedial secession to separate from Serbia.

Another argument is to set up a demilitarised zone in the Lachin corridor. A demilitarised zone that is observed by a concert of international observers beside Russian peacekeepers, so France, Germany, and other EU states or alternatively the US, would help maintain a semblance of order in the area and allow for the free movement of people in and out of the zone. International peacekeepers that are not direct party to the ceasefire accords will get push back from Russia and Azerbaijan, which is why that pushing such measures through the UNSC or European Parliament should be considered.

A more poignant consideration is pressuring Azerbaijan to stop through the imposition of targeted sanctions on the Azerbaijan government and defence sector can limit Azeri forces. The United States and EU have a variety of sanctions available to utilise in applying pressure to the government, such as the Magnitsky sanctions, CAATSA sanctions (for Russian weapon procurement) and other similar policies (a reversal of the waiver on Section 907 of the US Freedom Act should also be considered). What the aim should be with any form of targeted sanction is to prevent the Azerbaijan government from pursuing hardline policies against Armenians.

International observers can do their part to raise awareness on the situation unfolding in Artsakh. Petitioning local congress and parliamentary officials to voice up about this situation is something that readers can practically do. The Azerbaijan government is deathly afraid of international attention on this issue. It works within its own country to suppress vocal criticism. If there is enough pressure, then it cannot suppress discontent on an international level.


A Warning from History

Aliyev’s government is determined to maintain a strong hold of Artsakh. This determination mirror’s the passion of Slobodan Milosevic’s government in keeping Kosovo within Serbia. Kosovars during the conflict in the Balkans fought extensively to free themselves from the oppression of Milosevic’s regime. NATO even intervened in the late 1990s to avert genocide with an eleven-week bombing campaign. This campaign forced Milosevic to the negotiating table.

The war in Kosovo provides a historical warning of what can happen if the situation is allowed to escalate to the point of no return. There are other historical tragedies that can be evoked, but the point is clear that the crisis in Artsakh needs immediate resolution.


The views expressed in this article belong to the authors alone and do not necessarily reflect those of

Russia says it will analyze Armenia’s decision on hosting joint military exercises with United States


YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 11, ARMENPRESS. Russia on Monday said it would analyze why Armenia decided to conduct military exercises with the United States and not the CSTO.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said Moscow would maintain dialogue with Yerevan over the issue.

“Taking into consideration how Armenia did not express desire to hold military exercises with CSTO and has now announced desire to hold military exercises with the Americans, these are perhaps decisions that require very deep analysis to understand why specifically Armenia is making such decisions, what goals are being pursued,” Peskov said.

“But in any case, we will do this during close, collegial dialogue with the Armenian side,” he added.

Armenia will host the Eagle Partner 2023 joint Armenian-U.S. military exercise from September 11-20.

"In the framework of preparation for participation in international peacekeeping missions the Armenia-U.S. joint exercise "EAGLE PARTNER 2023" will be held from 11 to 20 September in Armenia, particularly in "Zar" Training Center of the Peacekeeping Brigade and the N Training Center of the Ministry of Defense,” the Ministry of Defense said in a statement last week.

The exercise involves stabilization tasks between conflicting parties during peacekeeping missions.

“The purpose of the exercise is to increase the level of interoperability of the unit participating in international peacekeeping missions within the framework of peacekeeping operations, to exchange best practices in control and tactical communication, as well as to increase the readiness of the Armenian unit for the planned NATO/PfP "Operational Capabilities Concept" evaluation. Within the framework of preparation for peacekeeping missions, units preparing for international peacekeeping operations frequently participate in similar joint exercises and trainings in partner countries,” according to the statement issued by the Defense Ministry.

EU mission reports on Armenia-Azerbaijan borders’ escalating tensions

Sept 5 2023

Despite occasional talks on a peace agreement to resolve disputes and normalize relations, tensions remain high and border clashes are common.

Increased tensions on the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the past few days have been reported by the EU mission in Armenia. 

On Friday, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry alleged that Yerevan was using combat drones employed by Armenia against Azerbaijani positions within the Kalbajar District, which led to the injury of two Azerbaijani soldiers.

Correspondingly, the Armenian Defense Ministry accused Baku of launching artillery attacks on Armenian positions along the border, resulting in the loss of three Armenian soldiers and the injury of two more.

"Last several days, EUMA eye-witnessed with concern the increased tensions and crossfire at the [Armenian]-[Azerbaijani] border areas. We reported on the situation to Brussels," the mission wrote on X. 

The EUMA patrols over the border areas and lines of confrontation in order to report on the latest military and security developments in the region to the European Union, the mission added. 

Read more: Azerbaijan risks 'nullifying' peace hopes: Armenian PM

The Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict has been largely centered around the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is an internationally recognized part of Azerbaijan populated mostly by ethnic Armenians that has been a source of conflict between the two Caucasus neighbors dating back to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite occasional talks on a peace agreement to resolve disputes and normalize relations, tensions remain high and border clashes are common. In two days of fighting in September of last year, around 300 soldiers were killed on both sides.

The ongoing fighting in the region has put a strain on the once-close relationship between Armenia and Russia, Armenia's traditional ally and the peacekeeper in Karabakh.

Kim Kardashian heartfelt plea to President Biden in hopes of preventing another Armenian genocide

Clutch Points
Sept 9 2023

Kim Kardashian is making a heartfelt plea to President Joe Biden, urging him to take action to prevent another Armenian Genocide and cut ties with Azerbaijan, TMZ reports. In an opinion piece published in Rolling Stone, Kardashian, along with physician and producer Eric Esrailian, passionately addressed their concerns.

Both Kardashian and Esrailian are descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors and are deeply committed to preventing further atrocities. They express their desire not to witness the recognition or commemoration of another genocide in the future.

The central issue highlighted in their plea is Azerbaijan's blockade, which has severed the lifeline connecting the indigenous Christian Armenians of Artsakh with the rest of the world since December. This blockade has resulted in the use of starvation as a weapon against the Armenian population in the region. Kardashian and Esrailian argue that the war in Ukraine has forced some countries to rely on Azerbaijan for oil, inadvertently contributing to this dire situation.

Furthermore, they criticize the coordinated social media campaigns aimed at downplaying the blockade, emphasizing the urgent need for action. Kardashian and Esrailian call upon President Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and other officials to take a swift and resolute stand.

Their proposed measures include economic sanctions, cutting off foreign aid to Azerbaijan, boycotting international events held in the country (such as concerts and sporting events), and pursuing international legal proceedings. They stress that time is of the essence, and the international community must act urgently.

Kim Kardashian emphasizes that the time for mere “thoughts, prayers, or concern” has passed, citing the ongoing conflict overseas, the 2020 attacks on Armenians in Artsakh, and a ceasefire agreement that was not upheld. She firmly asserts that the silence of governments worldwide has only exacerbated the situation, making it imperative to cut off foreign aid to Azerbaijan and boycott international events held in the country.

Pro-Russian blogger, Sputnik journalist detained in Armenia

Sept 8 2023

08.09.2023 08:41

Pro-Russian blogger Mika Badalyan and Sputnik Armenia journalist Ashot Gevorkyan were apprehended in Armenia on suspicion of illegal arms trafficking.

This was reported by the spokesman for the Investigative Committee, Gor Abraamyan, Ukrinform wrote with reference to Radio Svoboda.

The spokesman specified Badalyan and Gevorkyan were detained in the Syunik region on September 6 and 7. In total, seven persons were taken into custody in the case of illegal arms trafficking.

The Russian Embassy in Armenia is yet to clarify the circumstances of the incident and is monitoring the developments, as per reports.

The state-owned Russian media group Rossiya Segodnya, of which Sputnik Armenia is part, also reported that it is monitoring Gevorkyan's detention and "expects compliance with all procedural norms."

"Possible provocations aimed at undermining the friendship between the fraternal peoples of Russia and Armenia must be stopped immediately," the company said in a statement.

Earlier, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of Armenia criticized the Russian peacekeeping contingent in Nagorno-Karabakh, stating that it is not fulfilling its task, and also stated that Armenia's dependence on only one country, namely Russia, was a "strategic mistake". According to the politician, Russia itself is leaving the South Caucasus. He emphasized that none of the Western powers that Russia is talking about are pushing Yerevan to break with Moscow.

As reported earlier, the USA and Armenia will conduct joint military exercises. 

Congressmen seek to prohibit U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan

 12:31, 1 September 2023

YEREVAN, SEPTEMBER 1, ARMENPRESS. U.S. Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and David Valadao (R-CA) were joined by Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) in introducing a series of amendments to the Fiscal Year 2024 U.S. House Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4365) to block U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan, in the face of President Aliyev’s 260+ day genocidal blockade of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“The Biden-Harris Administration’s failure of leadership on Azerbaijan’s genocidal blockade of Artsakh underscores the urgent need for strong Congressional leadership and strict legislative oversight,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We welcome each of these amendments – those in defense of Artsakh and also banning cluster bombs – and are working alongside a broad array of Congressional allies and coalition partners to see them enacted into law.”

The ANCA is urging U.S. Representatives to cosponsor and support passage of four pro-Artsakh amendments, including:

– Amendment 258 (presented by Rep. Sherman) – Preventing the use of funds to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan.

– Amendment 263 (presented by Rep. Sherman) – Preventing the use of funds to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan for use against Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh (also known as Artsakh)

– Amendment 272 (Led by Representatives Pallone, Bilirakis, Valadao, Schiff & Malliotakis) – Prohibiting military aid and security assistance to the defense, security, and border forces of the Government of Azerbaijan.

– Amendment 285 (Led by Representatives Pallone, Schiff & Malliotakis) – Allocating $1 million to support Department of Defense activities and partnerships that will help peacefully resolve the illegal Azeri blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and allow for the unimpeded movement of essential humanitarian assistance, including food and medication, and commercial activities through the Lachin Corridor.

The ANCA is also recommending support for two amendments that would prohibit the acquisition, use, transfer and sale of cluster munitions, citing the devastating consequences of Azerbaijan’s use of these weapons during the 2020 Artsakh war.  These amendments are:

– Amendment 59 (Led by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Sarah Jacobs (D-CA)– Prohibiting funding for the acquisition, use, transfer, or sale of cluster munitions.

– Amendment 131 (Led by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) and Sarah Jacobs (D-CA) – Prohibiting funds made available by the bill from being used to transfer cluster munitions.

The amendments are currently under review by the House Rules Committee, which will determine their consideration by U.S. Representatives upon their return to session in mid-September.  Those ruled “in order” will be presented and voted upon during consideration of H.R. 4365

Blocking French aid proves Azerbaijan’s policy aimed at deteriorating humanitarian crisis in NK – Pashinyan to Hidalgo


YEREVAN, AUGUST 30, ARMENPRESS. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan has met with Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and her delegation over a luncheon.

PM Pashinyan highly appreciated and expressed gratitude for the initiative of the French regions to provide humanitarian aid to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh and underscored that Azerbaijan’s blocking of the convoy once again proves Baku's policy of deteriorating the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Prime Minister’s Office said in a readout.

The interlocutors emphasized the need for steps aimed at overcoming the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Views were exchanged about issues concerning the Armenian-French relations and the existing cooperation.

On August 30, Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo personally lead a French humanitarian convoy for Nagorno-Karabakh from Yerevan to the entrance of Lachin Corridor. The trucks were blocked by Azerbaijani authorities.

The Crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh: “A Creeping Genocide”

Aug 27 2023

A humanitarian catastrophe is looming in Nagorno-Karabakh. The government of Azerbaijan is blocking the region: food, medicine and hygiene items have not been allowed to be delivered to the area for a good two months. Not even the Red Cross is allowed into the region. Azerbaijan wants to bring the region under Baku control – the ethnic Armenians in the region want it

The contribution  appeared first Tichy’s insight.

A contribution by David Boos.

Genocide again? Why is no one paying attention to Armenia?

Aug 24 2023

Dr. Tom Catena in 2017 was awarded the Aurora Prize, established to honor the memory of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Over 100 years later, Catena is warning that the world might be witnessing another genocide against Armenians – this time taking place in the small enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

According to a report by a founding prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Luis Moreno Ocampo, Armenia’s neighbor, Azerbaijan, on June 15 completely sealed off the Lachin Corridor, the sole route into and out of the landlocked territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. “Since then, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and Russian peacekeeping forces have been banned from delivering humanitarian relief,” Moreno wrote.

Known for his work in Sudan, where he is medical director of Mother of Mercy Hospital in the Nuba Mountains, Dr. Catena is calling on parties in a regional dispute to open a humanitarian corridor to avoid potential mass starvation. 

A native New Yorker, Catena spoke with Aleteia from his home in Sudan. 

Could you explain what’s going on in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh?

Dr. Tom Catena: The history is complicated. This area has been ethnic Armenian for 2,000 years. It was always that way until the time of the Soviet Union, when they kind of created this Republic of Azerbaijan. 

In ancient times Armenia was a big empire. Later, it was part of the Ottoman Empire. It’s had its day as an empire and then as part of other empires since then. It was kind of independent, then it was kind of a Soviet Republic during the time of the Soviet Union.

And then its neighbor Azerbaijan was created as a country in the 1920s as the Republic of Azerbaijan. And this territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, my understanding is that [Soviet dictator Joseph] Stalin gave Azerbaijan jurisdiction over that area. So is was ethnic Armenian, but the Soviet Republic of Azerbaijan had jurisdiction over it, as Azeri people moved into that area.

Now fast forward to 1991, when the Soviet Union collapsed. They had a referendum in Nagorno-Karabakh, and they said, “No. We don’t want to be part of Azerbeijan. We want to be part of Armenia.’ The Azeris said, “No, we can’t do that.”

So fighting breaks out. Armenia supports the Armenian population in Artsakh [the Armenian name for Nagorno-Karabakh]. They fight for those areas and they win, so they capture some Azeri territory, and they get back Nagorno-Karabakh.

What year was that?

Dr. Catena: That was around 1993. Armenia won. They get the territory, and since that time it’s been almost like a semi-autonomous state. It’s affiliated with Armenia but it’s not really part of Armenia. They have their own president, their own parliament, but very close ties to Armenia. It’s almost kind of like an Armenian state. So that’s always been a bone of contention with Azerbaijan; they’re very bitter about this thing.

So now you come up to 2020, and fighting breaks out again. There’s always been cross-border [hostilities] – snipers taking shots at each other. So in 2020, war breaks out again, and now Azerbaijan has the backing of Turkey, and they defeat Armenia. They’re fighting over Nagorno-Karabakh, and they’re more or less victorious. They sign a ceasefire. Russia gets involved, and Armenia cedes the territory that they had gained in the previous war in the 1990s. 

Now it’s kind of at a standstill. They still have most of the territory, but this other stuff they had gained in the 1990s fight goes back to Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is still kind of agitating, saying this part needs to be part of Azerbaijan. There’s always been a lot of tension back and forth. Russia got involved, but now Russia’s obviously occupied with Ukraine. 

So the last thing that happened was in December 2022. There was a blockade of this place called the Lachin Corridor. I’ve been to Artsakh with my wife back in 2019. There’s this one paved road that goes from Armenia into Artsakh. Azerbaijan blockaded that road in 2022.


Dr. Catena: They had excuses: They said it was blockaded because there were iPhones and minerals being smuggled out of Nagorno-Karabakh. They had to do it for that reason. I mean, it was all a ruse. I think they saw their chance that Russia is now going to protect them. There were Russian peacekeepers there. I think some stuff was allowed through, you know, some Red Cross stuff, but now it’s a total blockade: food, sick people getting in and out – it can’t happen. And apparently there are a fair amount of people that are at risk for starvation because there’s nothing going on. It’s a small isolated area. On the eastern border is Azerbaijan, on the western border is Armenia proper, and it has been blockaded at the Lachin Corridor.

What’s the situation like now?

Dr. Catena: The situation has gotten pretty critical, and there are 120,000 people that live there, and there are calls going out that people are going to die from starvation if something’s not done. So the question now is to at least open a humanitarian corridor, allow food and medicine in and wounded and sick people out to greater Armenia for care. And Azerbaijan has been refusing.

An International Criminal Court prosecutor named Luis Moreno Ocampo wrote an article arguing that what Ilham Aliyev, the dictator of Azerbaijan, is doing counts as genocide against these people in Artsakh. Now that word genocide gets tossed around a bit much, but Moreno gets into the definition of genocide and what it means and says that by denying food and medicine and all this stuff you’re putting people in the position for mass death. 

What can other nations, particularly the US, do at this point to help the plight of these people?

Dr. Catena: I think you simply have to push these guys to open a humanitarian corridor. It can’t be that difficult to, say, stop the blockade, open a humanitarian corridor, allow food and medicine in, and we go back to start negotiating. Try to find a durable peace and stop this back and forth. It’s only 120,000 people, so it’s not a massive number, but they’re people, and it’s potential starvation. It’s a very isolated area. You can’t go to Azerbaijan to get things. To the south actually is another province that used to be part of Armenia; it’s been taken by Azerbaijan. They can’t travel there. Even to the north is Azerbaijan. The only way out is traveling west into Armenia. And that’s cut off. 

So I think the UN Security Council has the ability to kind of force it. It can’t take that much to do it. I mean, what’s the problem? I don’t see a big deal.

Why is someone from upstate New York who’s been working in Sudan for half his life taking such an interest in Armenia?

Dr. Catena: It really started with th Aurora Prize, which I received in 2017. It’s a prize that was started by three Armenians. One of the main criteria for the prize was somebody who kind of risks their life to help other people. They were doing it to honor their ancestors who were helped by strangers during the Armenian genocide. They said they’re alive today because “these people helped my grandfather, great grandfather, whatever, who survived during this time. So I want to start a prize to honor humanitarians.” The first year it was supposed to coincide with the 100-year anniversary of the Armenian genocide, which went from around 1915 to 1923. So a hundred years on, they wanted to give the prize for these eight years, and after that they would see how things would go. 

So anyway, I went there to receive the prize in 2017, and then went back for their subsequent ceremonies. And then in 2018 they wanted me to be the chairman of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, which is a secular humanitarian project. The main involvement is sponsoring the Aurora Humanitarian Prize, helping their projects out – that’s kind of the main involvement. 

I spent a total of six months outside of Nuba, Sudan, between 2018-2019: part of the time was in Armenia, part of the time was in Europe, part of the time was in the US, going around meeting people and talking about this humanitarian initiative.

Have you come to a new appreciation of Armenian history and culture?

Dr. Catena: Armenia is a very unique country. It’s the first Christian Republic, even before Constantine. Armenia became a Christian nation, I think, in 301 AD. So it’s the oldest Christian nation, and it’s got Turks to the left, Turks to the right. Azeris are Turkic-speaking people, and this tiny country is in between. Iran is to the South, and Georgia is to the north. So they’re kind of in the way of what they call a pan-Turkic region. Turkey really wants to eliminate these people, and they’re the little guy who’s trying to survive next to two big bullies that have big armies and other weapons. 

Azerbaijan is a pretty wealthy country. They’ve got oil reserves, and now with Russia being sanctioned, I’m sure people are lining up to Azerbaijan hoping to tap into their oil reserves. So Azerbaijan obviously would have a lot more pull with, say, Western nations and everybody else because they have something to offer. Armenia is kind of just there. They don’t have a lot of resources.

When you were in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh, did you get a look at how the Church is and how it’s operating?

Dr. Catena: I did, yeah. It’s got ancient monasteries there – I mean absolutely beautiful monasteries. It’s got a town called Shushi, which has a very old monastery. And now, actually, Shushi is in the hands of the Azeris. 

They have something called khachkars, Armenian crosses that are very unique to Armenian Christianity. And they’re all over the place in Armenia. And what the Azeris did is they would come into this territory – and these khachkars had been there for hundreds and hundreds of years – and they would just destroy the place, destroy the monasteries, destroy the khachkars and just lay waste to the place – a kind of cultural genocide. 

Azerbaijan is an Islamic country. They’re not looked upon as Islamic fundamentalists, but it’s an Islamic country like Turkey.

Also, the Church suffered a lot under communism; they went through 70 years under communist rule, where the Church was outlawed. It’s slowly coming back. People are coming back to the faith, but it’s slow. 

It’s an apostolic Church. St. Bartholomew, who was martyred in Armenia [and whose feast is on August 24], founded that Church. So it’s a very old history of Christianity there. It’s its own Church – one small country has its own Church. And they can trace that back 2,000 years. And it’s got a unique culture and a unique liturgy – really beautiful liturgies.

Asbarez: Yerevan Says U.S. Can Push for UN Security Council Resolution to Resolve Artsakh Crisis

The UN Security Council meets to discuss Azerbaijan's blockade of Artsakh on Aug. 16

Official Yerevan said that it anticipates that the United States will play a role in resolving the humanitarian crisis in Artsakh, stemming from Azerbaijan’s more than eight-month blockade of the Lachin Corridor

Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan told reporters on Tuesday that the U.S. can play a role in advancing a resolution by the United Nations Security Council to resolve the crisis.

Mirzoyan’s was responding to a reporter’s question about media reports suggesting that the U.S. actively obstructed the adoption of a resolution by the UN Security Council after it held an emergency session last week to discuss the Artsakh crisis.

An overwhelming majority of the countries represented last week at the UN Security Council session called on Azerbaijan to end the blockade and ensure free movement along the Lachin Corridor. However, no tangible statement or resolution emerged from the meeting aside from declarations of support for the Armenia-Azerbaijan peace talks.

The U.S. joined the European Union, France, Russia, China and other states to firmly reject the blockade.

“I have to note that the UN Security Council emergency meeting, which was convened at the request of Armenia, was open, and not only Armenians but the entire world had the opportunity to hear the positions of participating countries, including the United States,” Mirzoyan told reporters.

“In instances where the world is witnessing Azerbaijan’s policy of ethnic cleansing against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, I don’t think the United States would want to or plans to be part or contribute to a policy of ethnic cleansing in any way or form,” added Mirzoyan. “It would be difficult to imagine that.”

“I think and I hope that the US very well realizes the extent and the alarming pace of the humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, and also realizes that a possible resolution in the UN Security Council would come to resolve this situation and return the parties to the negotiations agenda,” Mirzoyan said.

Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on Monday downplayed the UN Security Council’s failure to formally demand an end to Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh.

Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ani Badalyan told reporters in written comments that the format of the meeting did not “presuppose the adoption” of any such document.

“Besides, only the 15 (permanent and non-permanent) members of the UN Security Council have the right to draft UN Security Council resolutions and initiate voting. Armenia, not being a member of the UN Security Council, does not have such authority,” Badalyan added.

“The discussion at the UN Security Council provides an important platform, an opportunity to focus the attention of the international community on the possible catastrophic consequences of the situation, to activate the Council’s efforts to address it and to foster their possible coordination and to outline the further steps,” explained Badalyan.

She added that the Armenian foreign ministry will continue its efforts within the UN and other arenas.

“Today, the international community, the members of the UN Security Council interested in real, lasting stability in the region must take clear steps, unite efforts in order to lead the developed understanding regarding the importance of reopening the Lachin corridor and the immediate resolution of the problem with effective use of existing mechanisms,” Badalyan said.