The Canadian government is again blaming Azerbaijan for escalating tensions in its Nagorno-Karabakh region, saying it is concerned about the “deteriorating humanitarian situation” for Armenians living in that region.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but it is mostly populated by Armenians, and neighbouring Armenia has fought for control of the region for decades.
Tensions rose in the area last fall, when the region’s main access road was blocked by groups of people suspected of being affiliated with the Azerbaijan government, and then by officials who have limited the access of vehicles.
Azerbaijan insists the region isn’t under a blockade, despite Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch saying food and essentials are severely restricted.
Last week, the International Committee of the Red Cross said it’s been denied access to all routes into the region, resulting in shortages of medicine, food and baby formula.
Canada sending officials to monitor situation
Canada is planning on sending two officials to support a European monitoring mission that is aiming to prevent another war in the region.
The Red Cross expressed alarm about Azerbaijan’s blocking of the area shortly after that country’s foreign ministry cited the group’s access to the area as proof that there was no blockade.
The Red Cross said last week it has been able to evacuate “more than 600 people in urgent need of medical care since December 2022,” but still has trouble accessing the region in order to provide medical services.
Global Affairs Canada said in a social-media post Tuesday that Azerbaijan should comply with the International Court of Justice’s order to allow the “unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo” into the region.
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry noted that the court order still allows for the inspection of vehicles entering the territory, and has alleged that the route has been used by elements affiliated with Armenia to smuggle weapons into the area.
Canadian MPs heard testimony in January about limited access to the region, but the House of Commons’ foreign affairs committee hasn’t completed its study or issued an interim report on how Canada should respond.
The federal government plans to open an embassy in Armenia shortly, and Liberal officials often attend Armenian diaspora events.