The president of Azerbaijan has discussed the ongoing situation in the Lachin corridor with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken over the phone.
"During the conversation, the US Secretary of State expressed concern over the situation on the Lachin corridor in the territory of Azerbaijan. Antony Blinken reiterated the US commitment to the normalization of Armenia-Azerbaijan relations and support for the peace treaty talks," said a statement released late on Monday by Ilham Aliyev's office.
The statement said Aliyev dismissed allegations of a blockade on the key land route between the cities of Lachin and Khankendi, linking Armenia with the Karabakh region, which Azerbaijan liberated from nearly three decades of Armenian occupation in 2020.
Noting that some 980 vehicles had used the road since Dec. 12, 2022, Aliyev said that over 850 belonged to Russian peacekeepers in the region, while over 120 belonged to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
He added that about 90 people in need of medical assistance had been taken to Armenia by the ICRC, demonstrating that Azerbaijan had not closed the road, according to the statement.
"The Head of State (Aliyev) underlined that illegal operations at the mining sites in Azerbaijan's territories where the Russian peacekeepers had been temporarily deployed must be stopped with permanent conditions to be created for the monitoring by Azerbaijan," the statement also said, adding that the Lachin road had been used for illegal shipments in 2021.
The statement said Aliyev reiterated Azerbaijan's commitment to the peace process and normalization with Armenia, further underlining that a peace deal between Baku and Yerevan must involve the normalization of bilateral relations only based on "norms and principles of international law and the five principles proposed by Azerbaijan."
"Aliyev noted that Azerbaijan would ensure the rights and security of the Armenian civilian population living in Azerbaijan's Karabakh economic zone under the constitution and laws of the Republic of Azerbaijan,' added the statement.
Since Dec. 12, Azerbaijani ecologists representing nongovernmental organizations had been protesting Armenia's illegal exploitation of natural resources in the Karabakh region, where Russian peacekeepers have been stationed since the aftermath of the fall 2020 conflict and a January 2021 pact with Azerbaijan and Armenia.
Relations between the two former Soviet republics of Armenia and Azerbaijan have been tense since 1991 when the Armenian military occupied Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, and seven adjacent regions.
In the fall of 2020, in 44 days of clashes, Azerbaijan liberated several cities, villages, and settlements from Armenian occupation. The Russian-brokered peace agreement is celebrated as a triumph in Azerbaijan.
Source: Anadolu Agency