(Portal) – Russia told Azerbaijan on Tuesday that a key road leading to the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region must be quickly cleared of protesters, but Baku has remained unmoved, according to differing reports from both sides.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but is home to a mainly Armenian population. The issue is becoming a major nuisance for Russia, which wants to maintain good relations with both Azerbaijan and Armenia, two small former Soviet states in the Caucasus region.
For the past month, Azerbaijanis posing as environmental activists have blocked transport along the Lachin corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, in what Yerevan describes as a government-backed blockade.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov spoke with Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov and “stressed the need for a speedy and full opening of traffic through the Lachin Corridor,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Bayramov dismissed alleged allegations of a roadblock and a humanitarian crisis in the enclave, saying dozens of cars and ambulances used the corridor every day, according to an Azerbaijani statement quoted by Russia’s Interfax news agency.
Baku says protesters have legitimate concerns about illegal Armenian mining in the area.
“In this regard, the need to meet the legitimate demand of the protesters was identified,” the Azerbaijani statement said.
Officials in Yerevan are increasingly angry with Russia – formally an ally by a mutual self-defense treaty – for not doing more to end the blockade, especially with Russian peacekeepers stationed in the corridor.
Russia blamed Armenia for the collapse of bilateral peace talks with Azerbaijan last week.
(Reporting by David Ljunggren; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)