The European Union continued to advance Azerbaijan’s plan to deliver supplies to Artsakh via a road connection from Aghdam, while continuing to press for the lifting of the Lachin Corridor blockade, which has caused an acute humanitarian crisis in Artsakh.
President of the European Council Charles Michel, through his spokesperson Ecaterina Casinge, issued a statement following a summit of EU foreign ministers in Toledo, Spain on Thursday.
While Michel said that the Lachin Corridor must be unblocked, he also reiterated the EU’s position calling for the eventual opening of the Aghdam road.
The current humanitarian situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly and it is imperative to take steps to address the needs of the local population, Casinge, Michel’s spokesperson said in the statement.
Following a meeting he hosted in July between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan in Brussels, Michel, and later Toivo Klaar, the EU envoy to the South Caucasus, began advancing Baku’s scheme of opening the Aghdam road, which has been rejected by the Artsakh authorities.
In the latest statement, Michel is proposing a “step-by-step approach which would reflect a sequencing in the full-fledged operation of the Lachin corridor and the opening of the Aghdam route.”
Michel also mentioned the need to guarantee the rights and security of the people of Artsakh, again referring to them as “Armenians living there the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast.”
Baku was quick to respond to Michel’s statement. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry for its part, recalled the Aliyev-Pashinyan meeting held on July 15 and asserted that during those negotiations, “the delivery of goods by various routes to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, as well as the activation of the use of Lachin road, in parallel with the opening of the Aghdam-Khankendi road, was agreed upon.”
“The agreements were violated due to the illegal conditions by the Armenian side,” Baku accused Yerevan.
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry did not respond to Michel’s statement about the need to ensure the rights and security of Artsakh Armenians, instead Baku repeated that Armenians will have the same rights as other citizens of Azerbaijan.
“Azerbaijan is determined to reintegrate the residents of Armenian origin living in the Karabakh region as equal citizens, providing them with the rights and freedoms provided by the Constitution of Azerbaijan,” Baku said in its statement.
Below is the complete statement from Michel.
President Michel has continued to be intensely engaged in advancing the Armenia-Azerbaijan normalization process. His efforts over the past weeks, supported by Toivo Klaar, EUSR for the South Caucasus, have focused as a priority on addressing the humanitarian situation of Karabakh Armenians.
EUSR Klaar and President Michel’s team have been in frequent contact with Baku, Yerevan and representatives of Karabakh Armenians to work out a solution for unblocking access.
The current humanitarian situation on the ground is deteriorating rapidly; it is imperative to take steps to address the needs of the local population.
European Council President Charles Michel has proposed a step-by-step approach which would reflect a sequencing in the full-fledged operation of the Lachin corridor and the opening of the Aghdam route.
Sequencing of these steps and the type of cargo that would be delivered by each of these roads, as well as attendant procedures, have been the core of the recent discussions.
The EU strongly believes the Lachin corridor must be unblocked, in line with past agreements and the ICJ Order, and notes that the use of the Aghdam road to provide supplies can also be part of a concrete and sustainable solution to the provision of urgent and daily basic needs. Discussions on these elements had started following the last meeting of the leaders in Brussels on 15 July 2023.
The EU side has also stressed the need for Baku to provide clarity to Karabakh Armenians in terms of procedures for their movements through Lachin corridor to and from Armenia.
In parallel, exchanges have also focused on restoring electricity and gas supplies to Karabakh Armenians as soon as possible.
Beyond the immediate situation, the EU side has stressed the need to address legacies of the conflict to facilitate a long-term sustainable resolution.
Dialogue between Baku and representatives of Armenians living in the former Nagorno-Karabakh Autonomous Oblast will be essential in this regard. The rights and security of Karabakh Armenians must be guaranteed and discussions on specific modalities should start as soon as possible.
The dialogue between Baku and the Karabakh Armenians needs to strengthen confidence and trust. To this end the EU has provided various suggestions for international support to this process, as well as for engagement on the ground to underpin the implementation of agreements reached.
All the above efforts have only one goal: ensure irreversible normalization of relations between Baku and Yerevan for the benefit of all populations on the ground. It is now time for courageous compromise solutions, also in light of today’s escalation.
The EU has been engaged with other international actors in these efforts, through regular personal contacts and exchanges of views on how best address the current unsustainable situation.