MOSCOW – Azerbaijan set up a roadblock on the only land link between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh region on Sunday, infuriating Armenia.

The action exacerbates tensions between the ex-Soviet Caucasus states, which fought two wars over Azerbaijan’s Armenian-majority Nagorno-Karabakh territory.
“The Azerbaijani Border Service units established a border checkpoint on the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan, at the entrance of the Lachin-Khankendi road,” the state border service said.

Baku and Yerevan went to war over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020 and again in the 1990s.
Azerbaijan is mandated to provide safe passage on the Lachin corridor, which is patrolled by Russian peacekeepers, under the Russia-brokered cease-fire that ended the 2020 conflict.

Azerbaijan, on the other hand, said the checkpoint was set up at 12:00 p.m. (0800 GMT) on Sunday “to prevent the illegal transportation of manpower, weapons, and mines.”
The checkpoint “shall be implemented in collaboration with the Russian peacekeeping force,” it stated.

Washington stated that it was “deeply concerned” that Azerbaijan’s deployment of a checkpoint along the Lachin route “undermines efforts to establish confidence in the peace process.”

“We reiterate that there should be free and open movement of people and commerce along the Lachin corridor, and we call on the parties to resume peace talks and refrain from provocations and hostile actions along the border,” the State Department said in a statement.

A French foreign ministry statement also stated it “deplores” the move as a violation of cease-fire accords that will stymie the peace talks.
Since last year, tensions over the Lachin corridor have escalated, with Russia focusing on its offensive in Ukraine.

Azerbaijani protestors closed the Lachin tunnel in December to protest what they allege is unlawful mining.

Baku was accused by Yerevan of organizing the protests and causing a humanitarian crisis in the mountainous region.

On Sunday, Azerbaijan said it established the checkpoint in response to “threats and provocations” from Armenia, which refuted the charges.
Baku accused Armenia of exploiting the corridor for army staff rotation, “the transfer of weapons and ammunition, the entrance of terrorists, as well as the illicit trafficking of natural resources and cultural property.”
It claimed to have filmed military convoys entering Azerbaijan’s borders as well as “the construction of military infrastructure… at the point closest to the territory of Azerbaijan.”
According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the charges are a “far-fetched and baseless pretext.”
It said that the roadblock was “a gross violation” of the 2020 cease-fire deal, and that it was part of Baku’s “policy of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Separatist leaders in Nagorno-Karabakh urged “the Russian Federation to immediately begin discussions” on “preventing the establishment” of the checkpoint.
Russia has been visibly losing power in the region, which it perceives as its traditional sphere of influence, as it has been distracted by its war in Ukraine and the confrontation with the West.
Armenia, which relies on Russia for security, has grown unhappy with the Kremlin’s failure to fulfill its peacekeeping mission.
Several personnel from both sides have been killed in recent months in conflicts.
On Sunday, Armenia announced that Azerbaijani forces had killed one of its soldiers.
Azerbaijan stated that it was in response to enemy fire.




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