Following a months-long blockade that culminated in violent attacks by Azerbaijani forces, the government of the predominantly ethnic Armenian region of Nagorno-Karabakh announced Thursday it would disband, effective immediately.
“The Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh … ceases to exist,” the separatist republic — referred to in Armenian as Artsakh — stated via its official information channel on Telegram. The statement noted that the beleaguered territory’s president, Samvel Shakhramanyan, had signed a decree stipulating the dissolution of all state organizations under his government’s jurisdiction by Jan. 1, 2024, adding that the population of the region will have the right to choose independently whether they wish to stay in the region under Azerbaijani rule.
The statement said the dissolution decision was made: “in connection with the complex military-political situation that has arisen, based on the priority of ensuring the physical security and vital interests of the people of Artsakh, taking into account the agreement reached through the mediation of the Russian peacekeeping contingent with representatives of the Republic of Azerbaijan that ensures the free, voluntary, and unimpeded passage of the residents of Nagorno-Karabakh, including servicemen who have laid down their arms, with their property in their vehicles through the Lachin corridor, and guided by Article 93 of the Constitution of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
The region’s dissolution was announced amid a months-long humanitarian crisis in the region and was the culmination of a decades-long territorial dispute. The CFR Global Conflict Tracker estimates that the population of the region is 95% Armenian despite being located within Azerbaijan’s borders. The conflict dates back to 1988 when the people in Nagorno Karabakh demanded independence from Azerbaijan and wanted to be folded into Armenia. Lachin Corridor has long provided access to food, medicine, and other essentials from Armenia. But in December, that corridor was cut off, initially under the pretense of demonstrations by purported environmental activists, but ultimately reinforced by official checkpoints.
In a UN hearing last month, Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Miroyan told the UN that Azerbaijan had cut the people of Nagorno-Karabakh off from some 400 tons of essential daily goods, suggesting that Baku was using the starvation of civilians as a means of warfare. Azerbaijani diplomat Yashar Aliyev dismissed these claims as groundless during the hearing.
Various international human rights organizations and tribunals have urged or ordered Azerbaijan to reopen the Lachin Corridor, thereby extending a key humanitarian lifeline to the region’s Armenian population. The International Court of Justice ruled in February of this past year that Azerbaijan must “take all the measures available to it” to allow unhindered movement of people, vehicles, and cargo along Lachin Corridor.