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Ethnic Cleansing or a Last Stand for Survival? – Ambassador Tigran Mkrtchyan’s op-ed

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The Armenian Ambassador to Greece, Cyprus and Albania Tigran Mkrtchyan wrote an op-ed titled Ethnic Cleansing or a Last Stand for Survival which was printed in the To Vima Greek newspaper and also published by Greek City Times and other media outlets and newspapers in Greece, Cyprus and Albania.

Below is the full op-ed:

''For the last few days, 120,000 Armenian men, women, and children have remained deliberately trapped by Azerbaijan in their ancestral homeland, of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). Azerbaijan has blockaded them, and they are now completely disconnected from the outside world.

A human catastrophe is unfolding.

On December 12, 2022, a group of Azerbaijani pseudo-environmentalists, under fabricated ecological concerns, blocked the Lachin corridor, the only remaining humanitarian lifeline that connects Artsakh to the outside world.

The Azerbaijani blockade is in flagrant violation of November 9, 2020 Trilateral statement, which in no uncertain terms states: (a) the Lachin Corridor shall remain under the control of the peacekeeping contingent of the Russian Federation, b) the Republic of Azerbaijan shall guarantee safe movement of citizens, vehicles and cargo in both directions along the Lachin corridor.

The roadblock has left the Armenians inside Artsakh isolated and with limited essential resources: food, medication and fuel is dwindling amidst freezing winter conditions. Azerbaijan also cut the gas supply (provided from Armenia and running through Azeri-controlled area) to Artsakh for several days to exacerbate the human suffering.

Schools, kindergartens had to close because of the absence of heating, and hospitals had to struggle to care for freezing patients, some of whom still cannot be transferred to Armenia for a life-saving treatment.

This blockade is not the first attempt by Azerbaijan to inflict massive human suffering on the Artsakh Armenians.

For the last 30 years, Azerbaijan has bombarded Artsakh Armenians in three wars. Three generations of Artsakh Armenians have suffered death and hardship, pogroms and massacres and continue to live under the constant threat of annihilation by Azerbaijan.

But they have endured.

Despite the signing of the November 2020 Trilateral Statement to cease hostilities, Azerbaijan has been relentlessly pursuing various means to create extreme and unbearable living conditions for the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh, including military provocations, psychological intimidation and terror, shooting at the civilian buildings, and repeatedly cutting off the gas in freezing winter temperatures.

Azerbaijan continues to use every tool in its arsenal to exterminate and/or expel Armenians from their homeland. Azerbaijan does not accept that there is such an entity as ''Nagorno-Karabakh'' clearly displaying its genocidal intentions.

The Azerbaijan blockade is not an isolated act: it is part of a systematic and consistent policy aimed at ethnically cleansing Nagorno Karabakh of its indigenous Armenian population. Anti-Armenian hysteria and hate speech, and institutionalized Armenophobia, make Azerbaijan’s intentions painfully clear.

By its destruction and desecration of the Armenian religious and cultural heritage, its obliterations of centuries old cemeteries and cross-stones, and its erasing of everything Armenian from the territories currently under its occupation, Azerbaijan is telegraphing not only its policy of ethnic cleansing, but its intent to commit another genocide against the Armenian people.

Indeed, Azerbaijan has made no secret whatsoever of the fact that it wants Nagorno-Karabakh without Armenians. It is the territory it is after; the extermination of the Armenians a means to this end. For the Armenians this is an existential moment, a matter of life and death, as they struggle in unremittingly unbearable and inhumane conditions for the very right to live in their ancient homeland.

What is unfolding is a genocide in slow-burn. A population of more than 120,000 human beings may disappear, be completely liquidated, without anyone being held responsible. We have witnessed it happen before to Armenians, to the Greeks, to the Kurds and many others.

The Foreign Ministry of Greece called on ''Azerbaijani authorities to ensure freedom and security of movement and transport, in both directions along the Lachin corridor without any preconditions in compliance with the Tripartite Statement of November 9, 2020. Local population should be spared from hardships and distress.''

Such statements and appeals to Azerbaijan were issued by the EU and the US, Canada, the Vatican, France, Cyprus, the Netherlands, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Lithuania, Estonia etc. UN Security Council will discuss the matter in a special meeting. All of those statements underline that the continuation of blockade threatens to cause a humanitarian catastrophe.

In fact, it is already in the making, as one patient passed away in Stepanakert because of the blockade. Azerbaijan pretends not to heed to those appeals and has circulated two pseudo-arguments- 1. Azerbaijan has not blocked Lachin Corridor and 2. It’s not the government, but the ''ecologists'' protesting. From the international reactions it is clear that no one, including in Azerbaijan, believes these arguments.

While the world prepares to celebrate Christmas and New Year this year, the Armenian population in Artsakh remains under the imminent threat of extermination, isolated and cut off from the rest of the world.

Urgent and decisive action is needed by the international community to prevent another shocking tragedy. The civilized world and specialized international organizations must step in to stem any further escalation of the situation and save the people of Artsakh from the genocide unfolding, which they will try to oppose by a last stand for survival.''


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