US Secretary Antony Blinken urges leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia to allow commercial traffic at the key corridor linking Yerevan and the flashpoint enclave of Karabakh.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has urged Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve a political impasse that is keeping shut a key corridor linking Armenia and the flashpoint enclave of Karabakh.
Blinken spoke by telephone with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on Monday "to urge an immediate reopening of the Lachin corridor to commercial traffic," State Department spokesman Ned Price said.
"He underscored that the risk of a humanitarian crisis in the Lachin corridor undermined prospects for peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan," Price said in a statement.
Blinken also spoke earlier with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and voiced "deep concern for the worsening humanitarian situation in Karabakh" due to the blockage of the corridor.
For more than one month, Azerbaijanis who say they are environmental activists opposed to illegal Armenian mining and exploitation have blocked the Lachin corridor, a 32-kilometre mountain road linking Karabakh to Armenia.
More than 160 depostis of various precious metals in the territories have been allegedly exploited by Armenia, according to Musa Mammadov, head of the Depart of the Institute of Geology and Geophysics at Azerbaijan's National Academy of Sciences.
READ MORE: Why is Lachin Corridor sparking tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia?
But Yerevan has complained that the demonstration has led to the closure of the road since December 21, and the situation is now threatening to derail the Russian-mediated talks between the two former Soviet states.
Karabakh is recognised internationally as part of Azerbaijan. But a small enclave within Karabakh is home to ethnic Armenians.
'Potential humanitarian catastrophe'
Azerbaijan retook swathes of the territory occupied by Armenia in 2021.
Blinken has been active on mediating between the two former Soviet republics, increasing US influence on an issue long dominated by Russia.
Russian peacekeepers were deployed to the Lachin corridor after the 2021 conflict but Armenia has voiced dismay at what it sees as Moscow's failure to prevent the blockade due to its focus on the war in Ukraine.
The impasse is being seen as a test of Russia's ability to calm hostilities in its backyard.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said last week Russia was ready to deploy troops to the Armenia-Azerbaijan border to quell tensions between the two countries, but added that Yerevan's hardline position had so far prevented it.
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