How to prevent the hunger in Artsakh

Since December 2022, Artsakh, or the self-proclaimed Nagorno Karabakh Republic, has faced a blockade imposed by Azerbaijan. It started with protests by so-called “eco-activists.” Then, on April 23, 2023, Azerbaijan established a checkpoint at the entrance of the Berdzor (Lachin) Corridor. Since mid-June 2023, it has effectively prevented supplies of any goods from reaching Artsakh via the corridor. These actions have brought the region to the brink of actual starvation, as local resources have been almost completely depleted by the absence of deliveries of food and other necessities.

Given the deteriorating humanitarian situation, the Armenian government has launched a campaign calling on the international community to intervene and accusing the Azerbaijani government of committing genocide against the Armenians of Artsakh. Simultaneously, Armenia continues negotiations with Azerbaijan to sign a peace treaty, with multiple talks taking place in Washington, Brussels and Moscow. The Armenian government has reiterated its willingness to recognize Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity under the 1991 Alma-Ata declaration, including Artsakh, and has dropped any demands for the autonomy of Artsakh within Azerbaijan. Instead, it has called for Stepanakert-Baku negotiations under an international mechanism to address the issue of the rights and security of the Armenian population living in Artsakh. Azerbaijan rejects any international mediation between its government and Artsakh, claiming that the rights and security of the Armenian population are the internal affairs of Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, Baku calls for the usage of the Aghdam-Stepanakert road to supply goods to Artsakh, arguing that as every state, including Armenia, recognizes Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, no one should reject the idea of supplying goods from Azerbaijan, as is the case with other regions of the country. Artsakh authorities reject this possibility, arguing that it will validate the use of blockade as a negotiation tactic. They also raise concerns that once the road via Aghdam is functional, Azerbaijan will have another argument not to open the Berdzor Corridor, thus entirely cutting off the connection between Armenia and Artsakh.

Amidst these ongoing debates and mutual accusations, the humanitarian situation in Artsakh worsens daily. As a part of its diplomatic pressure on Azerbaijan, Armenia called on the U.N. Security Council to convene an extraordinary meeting to discuss the situation around the Berdzor Corridor. During the meeting, almost all members of the Security Council raised concerns about the humanitarian situation in Artsakh. They demanded the opening of the corridor, while some also accepted the possibility of using other routes to deliver supplies to Artsakh. However, the discussion at the Security Council ended without any statement or resolution adopted. Statements and concerns from states and international organizations are insufficient to force Azerbaijan to restore the supplies of goods to Artsakh via the Berdzor Corridor. 

Currently, there are only a few options to prevent the looming hunger crisis in Artsakh, and only Armenia can take steps to end the stalemate. All calls to the international community, U.N. Security Council members, and international and regional organizations will only bring results if Armenia takes tangible actions to solve the conundrum. 

There are several scenarios through which Armenia can restore supplies via the Berdzor Corridor. First, Armenia should clearly state that as Azerbaijan pursues a policy of genocide against Artsakh’s Armenians, Armenia cannot recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan. Armenia may say it was willing to recognize Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan to contribute to long-term regional peace and stability, while knowing that Armenians will face multiple hardships living in Azerbaijan as Azerbaijan citizens. Armenia was ready to make this sacrifice, but it cannot do so while the Azerbaijani government commits genocide against Armenians. Armenia may return to its policy of recognizing Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan only after Azerbaijan ends its genocidal policy. By withdrawing its former declaration, Armenia can provide legitimacy to its demands that no supplies should be provided from Azerbaijan via Aghdam, and the supplies of goods via the Berdzor Corridor should be restored. However, this will not bring any change on the ground. Azerbaijan will continue to prevent the supply of any goods via the Berdzor Corridor.

A Flirtey drone delivering an AED (Wikimedia Commons)

If it withdraws its recognition of Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan, Armenia has two options. One is to threaten the use of force to open the corridor. This is quite challenging, as it may open the way for another large-scale war between Armenia and Azerbaijan, with unclear implications. Given the dynamic changes in regional and global geopolitics, it is almost impossible to assess the reaction and steps of external actors – Russia, Iran, Turkey, the EU and the U.S. – if Armenia launches a military operation to end the blockade. Given the gap between Armenian and Azerbaijani military power, this option is risky, even if international reactions are neutral or favorable toward Armenia. The second option is the launch of an airlift to Stepanakert using drones. Azerbaijan may use its air defense systems to shoot down the drones bringing food to Stepanakert. However, it will be challenging to shoot all drones, and it will significantly harm Azerbaijan’s global image, simultaneously bringing additional international attention to the situation around Artsakh.

Suppose Armenia does not withdraw its recognition of Artsakh as part of Azerbaijan. In that case, it will be highly challenging to demand the reopening of the Berdzor Corridor and reject the option to use the Aghdam-Stepanakert route. In this scenario, to prevent hunger in Artsakh, Armenia should start negotiations with Azerbaijan and international actors, including Russia, the EU and the U.S., on the modalities of the use of the Aghdam-Stepanakert road and the possibilities of simultaneous supplies to Artsakh from Armenia via the Berdzor Corridor and from Azerbaijan via Aghdam. 

Not taking steps toward any of these scenarios will only exacerbate the situation and increase the suffering of the Armenians living in Artsakh, making the deadlock even more dangerous.

Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan
Dr. Benyamin Poghosyan is the founder and chairman of the Center for Political and Economic Strategic Studies and a senior research fellow at APRI – Armenia. He was the former vice president for research – head of the Institute for National Strategic Studies at the National Defense Research University in Armenia. In March 2009, he joined the Institute for National Strategic Studies as a research Fellow and was appointed as INSS Deputy Director for research in November 2010. Dr. Poghosyan has prepared and managed the elaboration of more than 100 policy papers which were presented to the political-military leadership of Armenia, including the president, the prime minister and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Dr. Poghosyan has participated in more than 50 international conferences and workshops on regional and international security dynamics. His research focuses on the geopolitics of the South Caucasus and the Middle East, US – Russian relations and their implications for the region, as well as the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. He is the author of more than 200 academic papers and articles in different leading Armenian and international journals. In 2013, Dr. Poghosyan was a Distinguished Research Fellow at the US National Defense University College of International Security Affairs. He is a graduate from the US State Department Study of the US Institutes for Scholars 2012 Program on US National Security Policy Making. He holds a PhD in history and is a graduate from the 2006 Tavitian Program on International Relations at Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy.


  1. A very well written and analytical study of the options available to Armenia. One option not discussed is for Armenia to get close to Russia again, under brutal Russian terms. It is clear that Russia is using the starvation of 120,000 Armenians as a tool of “coercive diplomacy” in collaboration with Azerbaijan to a) weaken the Pashinyan government and cause political instability in Armenia, b) force Armenia back into CSTO c) end its dalliance with the West, d) open the Zangezur corridor for Russia, Azerbaijan and Turkey’s benefit. Of course Armenia will end up like Georgia, a sliced up salami. If Armenia agrees to Russian terms then Artsakh could remain Armenian under Russian “protection”. I am surprised that the Western countries are not doing more to support Armenia, to avoid this disastrous fate.

  2. This is a well-intentioned article, written by an intelligent political observer. But, it’s too late to do anything now. Major geopolitical shifts have begun across the world, and we Armenians effectively maneuvered Armenia right out of contention and straight into a dead end. Ultimately, it was a consequence of our “complimentary politics” and the Western financed Color Revolution of 2018. When you bite the hand that feeds, expect bad repercussions. When you try to please both sides of a geopolitical divide, neither side is pleased with you.

    Consequently, we are not in a position to control, or to even influence events. Therefore, what will happen, will happen. And whatever happens, it will be our collective fault. If any of you reading this has at any time spoken against Serj Sargsyan, Robert Kocharyan or Russia, you have contributed to what Armenia and Artsakh are going through today. You got what you wanted in 2018 – a Western financed “democratic” revolution. You then got what you deserved in 2020 – a historic defeat.

    People deserve the governments they have. There are no free meals in politics. Political illiteracy has a high cost. Revolutions end up eating their children. Karma is a you know what…

    • yes but the economy ???what did the armenians prefer better economy and development,or a free karabakh with the absolute povelty

  3. None of what you suggested will take place, if anything it provides the Azerbaijani side with propaganda ammunition. they will just tell the international community that this rump separatist leaders are willing to starve the people under them for propaganda points when they don’t allow food from agdam. and unless Armenia is willing to loose another 5000 young men and land (from the republic of Armenia) violating the internationaly recognized territory of Azerbaijan be it airspace or Land goes against international norm and gives justification to Azerbaijan to defend the integrity of its sovereignty. if Armenia comes out and says it doesn’t recognize the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan that automatically means Azerbaijan is free to take territory from Armenia. China can come out tomorrow and say it doesn’t recognize the territorial integrity of Vietnam still don’t change the fact Vietnam’s internationally recognized territory remains internationally recognized. The truth of the matter is this blockade can last for ten years, because let’s face it, Armenia as a country now is more useful to Russia than to the western colonizing powers like America or Britain.

    • The fact that the People’s Right to Self-Determination was granted to Kosovans in Kosovo by “international community” thus violating the territorial integrity of Serbia shows what you claim is baseless!

      Kosovo had no right to Serbian territory yet an independent country was carved out of Serbian territory for the Kosovans but Armenians having every right to the territory of Artsakh in which they have lived since time immemorial are denied this right. That shows that the so-called “international community” is nothing but a mere buzz word to throw around to legitimize a terrorist Azerbaijani state invented artificially only 108 years ago just because it has oil & gas reserves the West needs and is heavily invested in. They are not fooling anyone!

  4. Despite what Armenian society wants to believe, the world, Western governments in particular, has always been governed by – might makes right and realpolitik. The term “international community” simply means – club of major powers. What we know as “international law” is written by the strong to control the weak. And so-called treaties are not worth the paper they are written on.
    We should have understood all this and made the necessary concessions to win the peace in Artsakh. We Armenians are where we are because we refuse to learn from history, we refuse to learn from our past mistakes, we grossly overestimate our capabilities, and we continue believing in Western fairytales like “democracy”.

  5. #Ararat, Kosovo happened in a context of the balkanization of Yugoslavia into several independent States with bloody conflicts in between, in an area in Europe. nagorno karabakh is already recognized Azerbaijani territory even with its Armenian population. Good luck expecting any European colonizer powers to recognize what is EFFECTIVELY a rump enclave within Azerbaijan that can’t sustain itself when it’s not acting as a part of Armenia. they didn’t recognize South Ossetia, North Cyprus and Abkhazia places with much better geography than karabakh, so good luck expecting any different for karabakh. Armenia will inevitably start to loose territory as long as no peace treaty is signed with Azerbaijan, that is the brutal reality in the near future. And also Expect Georgia to allow trade to pass through them to Armenia as they benefit a LOT from your dependency on them, as well as turkey and Azerbaijan. but I can almost bet my head Tiblisi has run through military scenerios about a potential invasion from ARMENIA, because if I were a Georgian patriot, seeing the separatist forces sponsored by Russia in my North and seeing karabakh sponsored by Armenia in my South, it doesn’t take a genius to see Armenia might one day claim Southern Georgia as their “Historical Armenian Ancient Homeland” and this potential fact alone makes Georgia no matter what Armenians might think not your Friend.

    • Agree 100%. Regarding Kosovo, the “international community” was split, Russia was against it, the West was for it. Regarding Armenian claims over Karabakh, the entire international community, including Russia, was against it. That in a nutshell expalins why we are where we are. Karabakh’s situation closer to Northern Cyprus. Sadly, unlike Northern Cyprus, a territory that has a major regional power like Turkey protecting it, Karabakh has “democratically elected” Nikol.

  6. The so-called “international community” is a buzz word used to legitimize the interests of superpowers and other major powers at the expense of others, the weak and the voiceless in particular, regardless of historical facts. In this case against Armenia to protect western interests and investments in Caspian energy resources.

    When you add into the conversation the claim of the Russian leader that the collapse and disintegration of the Soviet Union was one of the modern geopolitical catastrophes for the Russian nation then you will realize that in that context when Russia was against Armenian claims over Artsakh that was because in Russia’s vision of their now-defunct Soviet empire Artsakh had to remain under the enemy control. Therefore, the Russian stand or claim on Artsakh was more a pro-Russian one than anything else. In other words, for Russia to be whole again, Artsakh had to find its place where it used to be!

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