The United Nations will send a mission to Nagorno-Karabakh for the first time in about 30 years, scrambling to address humanitarian needs after Azerbaijan retook the territory and triggered a major refugee exodus, a spokesman has said.
“The government of Azerbaijan and the UN have agreed on a mission to the region. The mission will take place over the weekend,” spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Friday.
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The announcement came on the heels of a request by Armenia to the World Court to order Azerbaijan to withdraw all its troops from civilian establishments in Nagorno-Karabakh so that the UN have safe access, the court said on Friday.
The World Court, formally known as the International Court of Justice, in February ordered Azerbaijan to ensure free movement through the Lachin corridor to and from the disputed region, in what then was an intermediate step in legal disputes with neighbouring Armenia.
In a request for provisional measures submitted on Thursday, Armenia asked the court to reaffirm the orders it gave Azerbaijan in February and to order it to refrain from all actions directly or indirectly aimed at displacing the remaining ethnic Armenians from the region.
Some international experts have said the exodus of ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh meets the conditions for the war crime of “deportation or forcible transfer”, or even a crime against humanity.
Last week, Azerbaijan’s forces took control of the self-declared state in the mainly ethnic Armenian enclave, prompting residents to flee and stirring fears of ethnic cleansing.
Over the years, Azerbaijan and Armenia have fought two wars over the mountainous region.
“We haven’t had access to there about 30 years,” said Dujarric, due to the “very complicated and delicate geopolitical situation.”
“So, it’s very important that we will be able to get in,” he continued, adding that the mission would do so by air from Azerbaijan.
A team of about a dozen people led by the UN’s humanitarian affairs department will assess the needs of people who have remained in the territory and those who are on the move, he added.
“And of course, it bears reminding of the need for everyone to respect international law and especially international human rights law,” he said.