(Ottawa) Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly says she is “deeply concerned” that Azerbaijan is intensifying a long-standing dispute with Armenia over a breakaway province by blocking its main access route .
Tensions between the two countries have skyrocketed in recent months since Azerbaijan restricted access to the road that connects Armenia to the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The region is mainly populated by ethnic Armenians, but is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
In January, the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee heard that Azerbaijan had restricted access to the only road leading into the territory, known as the Lachin Corridor, although medical services can still pass.
In her first statement this year on the conflict, Joly pointed out that a new Azerbaijani checkpoint set up along the road “clearly undermines the peace process and stability in the whole region”.
Canada says the two countries must continue to talk and stick to the peace process, which aims to end the recurring clashes that have erupted in recent years.
“We urge the authorities of Azerbaijan to reopen the Lachin corridor. It must remain open and unhindered to allow the free movement of people and goods,” read Ms. Joly’s statement on Tuesday morning.
Last December, the road was blocked by groups of Azerbaijanis who insisted they were independent environmental activists opposed to mining. The Azerbaijani government says it has no ties to the groups, but others have disputed that claim.
In February, the International Court of Justice ordered that the demonstrations be evacuated to allow humanitarian access.
Nonetheless, on Sunday, the Azerbaijani government said it had set up a “border checkpoint” on the road, which it claims Armenia is using to station soldiers and weapons inside the breakaway region.
The two countries accuse each other of violating the pact that ended heavy fighting in 2020.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry said on Sunday that one of its soldiers had been killed by an Azerbaijani sniper near the border, but Azerbaijan denied the claim and reported separately that its soldiers had since come under fire. Armenia in another part of the border area.