29-09-2023 | 14:30
STEPANAKERT — President Arayik Harutyunyan of Artsakh at a press conference on July 24, spoke about the misery that his people were experiencing and appealed to the world community to remedy this unacceptable situation.
He said the 225-day of the illegal blockade and 40 days of total siege show that Azerbaijan does what it pleases. “It is evident that Azerbaijan, under the conditions of international impunity, continuously tightens repressions against the people of Artsakh with the undisguised purpose of ethnic cleansing, driven by a policy of ethnic hatred and discrimination. During this time, the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights have issued legally and politically binding rulings to ensure an unimpeded movement of people, vehicles, and cargo through the Lachin Corridor in both directions. Furthermore, the European Parliament, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, various states’ legislative and executive authorities, and authoritative international human rights organizations have all made clear demands and appeals to the authorities of Azerbaijan to cease the illegal siege of Artsakh and refrain from using force or threats of its use. However, Azerbaijan has not only disregarded court rulings and the demands of the international community but has also expanded and deepened the blockade and military threats.”
He said that the siege’s aim is to “destroy in whole the entire ethnic Armenian population of Artsakh and forcefully end the conflict by eliminating the people of Artsakh from their land.”
In addition, the medium-term goal of Azerbaijan is “to subjugate the people of Artsakh by force, dismantle the Republic of Artsakh and its resistance systems, force the people of Artsakh to flee, collapse the economy of Artsakh, and gain additional leverage over Armenia, particularly by obtaining an extraterritorial road between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan through Armenian territory.”
He noted that not only is the border blocked, but that through the use of disrupted services such as gas, water or electricity, and through random shooting of agricultural workers, “an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear” has been created.
Harutyunyan continued, “As a result of the blockade, we are currently witnessing a humanitarian disaster that affects all aspects of life, from food and healthcare to agriculture and education. Human lives are at risk, from newborn babies to elderly chronic patients, due to the direct and indirect impacts of the blockade.
“A severe food shortage has emerged since approximately 90 percent of the food consumed in Artsakh was previously imported from Armenia. Over the past 40 days, not a single kilogram of food has entered Artsakh, and the limited local production has been greatly hindered by the lack of fuel and other essential materials.”
In addition, he said the healthcare system is facing a crisis since medicines cannot be imported. “The number of deaths and complications among unborn and newborn babies has doubled, and anemia among pregnant women has reached a staggering 90 percent. All planned medical examinations and surgeries have been suspended, and hundreds of patients cannot travel to Armenia or abroad for treatment. Essential medical equipment is out of order due to power outages and a lack of necessary maintenance.”
During the blockade, power is out at least six hours daily, resulting in businesses being non-functional.
He added, “In the private sector, all factories and almost all service companies have closed down, leaving over 80 percent of private sector workers unemployed, amounting to more than 15,000 people. The construction of 3,700 apartments intended for families displaced by the war in 2020 has also come to a stop. The direct loss to the economy amounts to about $430 million, which represents approximately 50 percent of the projected annual GDP.”
These actions by Azerbaijan, Harutyunyan noted, are not only immoral, but illegal under international law and are tantamount to genocide.
“Azerbaijan deliberately inflicts on the people of Artsakh conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part imposes living conditions on the people of Artsakh that aim at the complete or partial destruction of the population. According to international law, such an intent amounts to a genocide, and it obliges all states of the international community to take steps to prevent this crime of genocide,” he said. “Azerbaijan’s claims that the issue of Artsakh is its internal matter are reminiscent of the justifications made by the leadership of Nazi Germany during the Nuremberg trials who attempted to narrate mass murders as internal affairs. The civilized international community did not accept such a defense then and denied the alleged right to carry out massive human rights violations under the pretext of internal affairs now.”
He emphasized that the conflict needs to be resolved by peaceful negotiations.
“The Republic of Artsakh has always been open to engaging in negotiations with Azerbaijan to achieve a balanced, fair, and dignified resolution to the conflict. We believe that negotiations should take place within an agreed international format that has an appropriate mandate, ensuring active participation and legitimacy from the international community in the negotiation process,” he said.
The international community should make sure that Azerbaijan again does not resort to the use of or threat of force.
“Trading in people’s sufferings is unacceptable. The transportation and energy blockade of Artsakh, designed to maximize the distress of its people, must be immediately and unconditionally halted in accordance with the decisions of the International Courts and the principles of justice. Ending the illegal siege and alleviating the suffering of the people will create the necessary minimum prerequisites for initiating negotiations and foster more favorable conditions for meaningful discussions. The negotiation process must be grounded in international law norms and universal values, such as justice, dignity, and equality. Any artificial boundaries that could predetermine the outcome of negotiations should be excluded,” Harutyunyan said.
The status question of Artsakh also needs to be resolved. “ The right to self- determination of our people and the imperative need to prevent genocide form an indisputable basis for recognizing and securing the right to external self-determination, grounded in the concept of ‘remedial secession. This principle was of vital importance in 1991 when the region councils of the Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Region and the Shahumyan region proclaimed the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic based on international law and USSR legislation,” he added.
The situation is dire enough, he said, that “I am declaring Artsakh a disaster zone today, urgently seeking a comprehensive international response and in need of security, political, and humanitarian support from the international community, collectively and individually. Artsakh is now the only area in the world facing complete isolation and siege, with no access to humanitarian relief and international presence. If the declaration of a disaster zone does not lead to an immediate international support, Artsakh could be likened to a concentration camp, with all the dire consequences it entails.”
He added, “The time has come to consider unilateral action as a last resort to prevent mass crimes. Our foremost demands are directed towards the parties involved in the Trilateral statement of November 9, 2020, particularly towards Russia as the security guarantor, and Armenia, urging them to fulfill their obligations. We call on Armenia to refrain from making any statements or taking actions to recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan and respect the right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination.
“We demand the UN Security Council, within the scope of its mandate and obligations, to take decisive steps to prevent the genocidal policy implemented by Azerbaijan and ensure the implementation of the decisions of the International Court of Justice and the European Court of Human Rights, particularly regarding the opening of the Lachin Corridor.
“In this regard, I urgently request the involvement of the United Nations, its entire system, and specialized agencies mandated specifically to act in situations of humanitarian crises . The international community’s support is crucial to safeguard the lives and rights of the people of Artsakh during these critical times,” Harutyunyan said.
He expressed his readiness to make an online presentation to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.
“Additionally, I urge the executive directors of UNICEF, the United Nations World Food Program, and the United Nations Population Fund, along with the Director-General of the World Health Organization, to live up to their mandates and responsibilities, and deliver relief and presence on the ground. I appeal to all actors involved to cease supporting Azerbaijan’s criminal agenda, as it only exacerbates the suffering of innocent people. I call for concrete steps to be taken to ensure a favorable environment for the stable security of the people of Artsakh and a peaceful and just settlement of the conflict. The international community must unite and take decisive action to alleviate the immense hardships faced by the people of Artsakh and work towards a lasting resolution for the benefit of all involved parties,” he noted.
He concluded, “The international community, in the face of the UN Security Council, including three OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] Minsk Group co-chair countries as members, and mandated with primary responsibility for international peace and security and prevention of atrocity crimes, possesses all the necessary tools to stop Azerbaijan’s genocidal policy. The international impunity of Azerbaijan must be put to an end, as failure to hold those responsible accountable will only pave the way for the occurrence of new and even more severe crimes which are about to be committed.”