Armenia tells UN court blockade is ‘ethnic cleansing’
Armenia accused its bitter rival Azerbaijan at the UN’s top court on Monday of “ethnic cleansing” through a blockade of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The complaint is part of a wider legal battle at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) between the former Soviet republics, who fought a short war over the region in 2020.
Since mid-December, a group of Azerbaijanis has blocked the only road into Karabakh from Armenia to protest what they claim is illegal mining causing environmental damage.
“Such blatant acts of ethnic cleansing have no place in the modern era,” Yeghishe Kirakosyan, Armenia’s representative on legal matters, told the Hague-based ICJ.
“Azerbaijan appears intent on strangling the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, no matter the human cost.”
Armenia says the mountainous region of some 120,000 people has been running short of food, medicines and fuel as a result of the blockage of the Lachin corridor.
It asked the ICJ to order Azerbaijan to stop the blockade and ensure full movement of goods and natural gas into the region.
“This court is the last hope for the ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Kirakosyan added.
Azerbaijan told the court that the allegations were “baseless”.
“Armenia’s claims of a protester blockade are absolutely false,” Azerbaijani deputy foreign minister Elnur Mammadov told judges.
He showed the court evidence of what he said was movement along the road.
“Azerbaijan’s message for the Armenian people is one of reconciliation,” he added.
When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, ethnic Armenian separatists in Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan. The ensuing conflict claimed around 30,000 lives.
Another flare-up of violence in 2020 killed more than 6,500 and ended with a Russian-brokered truce that saw Armenia cede territories it had controlled for decades.
The Caucasus archfoes then took the issue to the ICJ, claiming the other had breached an international convention on discrimination.
The court in December 2021 ordered both Armenia and Azerbaijan to avoid aggravating their feud.
The ICJ was set up after World War II to rule on disputes between UN member states. Its rulings are binding and cannot be challenged, but it has no real means to enforce its decisions.