PACE calls on Azerbaijan to ensure free and safe movement along Lachin corridor

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) voted 48 to 16 with one abstention to adopt a resolution on Ensuring free and safe access through the Lachin Corridor.

Recognizing that the absence of free and safe access through the Lachin corridor is part of a much broader issue, the Assembly is convinced that a humanitarian response alone is not sufficient and that a political solution is needed.

Welcoming the negotiations underway between Armenia and Azerbaijan under the auspices notably of the European Union and the United States of America, the Assembly stresses that the current situation is not sustainable and may well lead to the Armenian population being forced to leave their homes and communities if there is no resolution to the conflict. In this context, it urgently calls for addressing the issues of the rights and security of the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh through dialogue between Baku and Stepanakert and a neutral international involvement in any peace implementation mechanism to be put in place.

Noting the interim measures decided by the European Court of Human Rights on 21 December 2022 under Rule 39 of the Rules of the Court calling on the Government of Azerbaijan “to take all measures that are within their jurisdiction to ensure safe passage through the Lachin Corridor of seriously ill persons in need of medical treatment in Armenia and others who were stranded on the road without shelter or means of subsistence”, the Assembly calls on Azerbaijan to implement this decision with no further delay.

Noting that the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to urgently “take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions”, the Assembly calls on Azerbaijan to also comply with this order urgently.

While noting that the mirror applications brought by Azerbaijan against Armenia were rejected by both international courts, the Assembly believes that Armenia must also play a role in de-escalating the tensions, and that it should be open to some form of international monitoring with the aim of assessing the veracity of Azerbaijan’s allegations regarding the illegal weapons being brought into Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Assembly calls on Azerbaijan to invite a Council of Europe delegation to visit the Lachin corridor and Nagorno-Karabakh for a fact-finding mission, to assess the situation on the ground. It also calls on Azerbaijan to let other international organizations access the region, including United Nations agencies, in particular the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), in line with their respective mandates and relevant principles regulating international humanitarian assistance.

The Assembly recognizes the crucial role played by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in transporting patients through the Lachin corridor, reuniting separated families and transporting medicines, medical equipment, seeds and food to the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh, as far as it was able. It recognizes, as a key point, that such interventions should not be required, and that the fact that they are is a clear evidence that there is no free and safe access through the Lachin corridor.

 In the full recognition of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity, the Assembly calls Azerbaijan for a genuinely constructive and peaceful approach towards its neighbor Armenia and the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh. It strongly encourages Azerbaijan to invest all efforts for a free and safe movement both ways along the Lachin corridor. In the meantime, it urges Azerbaijan to restore electricity and gas supplies without delay or impediment, and to agree with Armenians a new route for gas supplies and the electricity grid through Armenian and not Azerbaijani territory.

The Assembly is extremely worried by the hostile and threatening rhetoric used against Armenians at the highest level of Azerbaijan’s leadership and urges Azerbaijan to repudiate such rhetoric and take steps to tackle both hate speech, including by public and high-level officials, and hate crimes. To this end, Azerbaijan is encouraged to introduce and implement appropriate legislation with the assistance of the Council of Europe.

The consequences of the absence of free and safe access through the Lachin corridor have shown that confidence-building measures would certainly be useful in addressing certain situations. The Assembly therefore recommends Armenia and Azerbaijan to engage in confidence building measures under the auspices of the Council of Europe, notably with the involvement of medical doctors, journalists, youth and civil society. It also invites the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe to offer her good services to establish and foster dialogue and co-operation between the Human Rights Defender of Armenia and the Commissioner for Human Rights of Azerbaijan.

The Assembly invites both Armenian and Azerbaijani parliamentary delegations to discuss the possible steps towards the establishment of a conducive and fruitful dialogue based on topics of mutual interest, with a view to decreasing tensions and building sincere co-operation, which would help to dispel fears and mistrust.

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