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Why the opening of the Akna road is unacceptable?

Thursday, 31 August, 2023, 00:00
Why the opening of the Akna road is unacceptable?

WHY THE OPENING OF THE AKNA ROAD IS UNACCEPTABLE........................................ 2
OF THE BERDZOR CORRIDOR. ............................................................................................ 3
ITS ANTI-ARMENIAN POLICIES........................................................................................... 7
AND UNHINDERED CONDUCT BY AZERBAIJAN. ......................................................... 11
A massive humanitarian catastrophe is imminent in Artsakh. 120.000 ethnic Armenians are
under the Azerbaijani blockade for 262 days. People—especially children, pregnant women and the
elderly—are facing severe healthcare problems due to malnutrition. Artsakh is lacking the most
essential foodstuffs and vitally important products.
Azerbaijan’s fascist policy of Armenophobia, and the impunity it has gained from its
previous humanitarian and human rights violations, triggers further and more severe conduct
against ethnic Armenians residing in Artsakh. Ethnic cleansing and genocide in Artsakh are the
main priorities of Azerbaijani authorities.
Azerbaijan’s disrespect and ignorance of the core values of International Human Rights
Law and International Humanitarian Law has reached the highest possible level. They are even
abducting civilians during an ICRC-facilitated or Russian peacekeepers’ facilitated transfers,
transfers to which the Azerbaijani side had given its prior consent to and approval.
The current situation around the Artsakh blockade is not only about the life and security of
120.000 ethnic Armenians living there, but it is also the unfolding and protection of humanitarian
values and national identity.
Azerbaijan’s openly criminal activities, and the lack of any meaningful reaction from the
international community and its absolute lack of responsibility, have allowed Artsakh to become an
open-air prison, where people are being subjected to massive starvation through genocidal policies.
It is against this backdrop that Azerbaijani authorities recently made a proposal to replace
the Berdzor (Lachin) road with an Akna (Aghdam) road.
The Center for Law and Justice TATOYAN foundation considers Azerbaijan’s
proposal for the Akna road not acceptable—and indeed existentially catastrophic—for the
safety and security of the Artsakh Armenians1.
1 This urgent report was prepared for the Foundation in a working collaboration with international lawyer Mr. Karnig
Kerkonian, criminal lawyer Mr. Garo Ghazarian, and human rights lawyer Mr. Arman Tatoyan.
There are three main reasons:
1. The opening of the Akna road will undercut the core purposes of the Berdzor
(Lachin) Corridor (“Corridor”), which serves a purpose well beyond merely
humanitarian access.
2. The opening of the Akna road will be used by Azerbaijan in furtherance of its antiArmenian policy as an enhanced tool for the oppression of the Artsakh Armenians.
3. The opening of the Akna road invites the very real prospect of arbitrariness and
unfettered conduct by Azerbaijan, without any checks and balances.
While the Akna road proposal may appear inviting on its face, a closer inspection
demonstrates plainly that it neither serves a humanitarian initiative nor provides a stabilizing step
in the dispute. In fact, the opening of the Akna road will assuredly exacerbate the dispute, swiftly
isolate the population, and further alienate international oversight concerning the condition,
security, and survival of the Artsakh Armenians.
The Corridor serves several complex and crucial purposes. The road through the Corridor
is not only a humanitarian road. It is a road secured for communication, connection, and cultural,
familial, and social development with the Armenians of Armenia. The Corridor is also the Artsakh
Armenians' connection to their extended and even immediate family members in Armenia. It is
their link to the outside world.
These essential purposes of the Corridor are manifested in several ways, all of which will
be bankrupted and devalued with the opening of an Akna road. The Corridor has a broad bandwidth
that is not replaceable, and will be deconstructed, by the opening of an Akna road. The Akna road
will also institutionalize Azerbaijan’s circumvention of its non-interference obligations in the
Corridor and render any security promises fleeting, if not ridiculous on its face.
A. The Corridor Guarantees the Preservation of Ethnic Armenian Identity.
1. The Corridor is a physical guarantee for the preservation of the ethnic
Armenian identity of the Artsakh Armenians. This, of course, is an
internationally guaranteed right, as the Artsakh Armenians have the right to
maintain, protect, develop, and enjoy their very identity as ethnic
Armenians. The Corridor serves to physically secure the Artsakh
Armenians’ ability to preserve their ethnic Armenian identity.
2. The security and survival of the Artsakh Armenians must take into
consideration their security and survival as ethnic Armenians. The Corridor
should be understood and protected such, and it should not be devalued in
the current crisis imposed by Azerbaijan as only a humanitarian road.
3. When understood in this light, the Akna road is in fact a direct threat to the
security and survival of the Artsakh Armenians as ethnic Armenians. This
is why Azerbaijan insists on proposing it as an “alternative”.
4. An Akna road cannot be, and it is not, an alternative to the Corridor. Ethnic
Armenians have no personal, cultural, linguistic, religious, familial, or
developmental reasons to use an Akna road to travel to Azerbaijan. The
Corridor serves all of these purposes for the Artsakh Armenians—an Akna
road serves none of them.
B. An Akna Road Would Circumvent the Legal Prohibitions Against Azerbaijan
as Established in the Corridor.
1. The Corridor is regulated by an international political and legal regime. This
regime imposes limitations on Azerbaijan’s conduct with respect to the
Artsakh Armenians. The Corridor has an international legal and political
character that prohibits Azerbaijan’s interference with the movement of
persons, vehicles and goods in both directions.
2. Indeed, this is precisely what is stated in the Trilateral Statement and, in an
even broader context, by the International Court of Justice: movement shall
be “unhindered” by Azerbaijan in both directions.
3. The regime in the Corridor, established by the agreement of the parties to
the Trilateral Statement and the International Court of Justice, necessitates
the exclusion of Azerbaijani interference with the movement of persons,
vehicles, and cargo.
4. These international protections would be devalued immediately by the
opening of the Akna road, as it will allow Azerbaijan direct access to the
Artsakh Armenians without the legal and political limitations imposed on it
by the legal and political regime in the Corridor.
5. As such, the very purpose of the Corridor and the guarantees it provides—
namely Azerbaijani non-interference in the connection between Artsakh
Armenians and Armenia—would be devalued and ultimately deconstructed.
6. An international control mechanism to ensure the connection between the
Artsakh Armenians and Armenia would be lost and, with it, international
interest in maintaining that relationship for the people of Artsakh. Given the
anti-Armenian policies, actions and rhetoric from Azerbaijan, the diffusion
of international interest and attention may cause quite devastating
consequences for the Artsakh Armenians.
C. Azerbaijan’s Circumvention of its International Security Obligations as to the
Corridor Will Derail Any Negotiated Resolution.
1. Azerbaijani non-interference obligation with the movement of people,
vehicles and cargo in the Corridor in both directions with Armenia is, as is
plainly evident after 8 months of blockade, the single most significant
security guarantee for the survival of the Artsakh Armenians as ethnic
2. One of the central issues—if not the central issue—in any prospective talks
between Stepanakert and Baku specifically involves the issue of security
guarantees. If Azerbaijan is permitted to circumvent its promises and
international obligations by suggesting the Akna road “alternative”—
despite its own assumed legal obligations, despite the order of the
International Court of Justice, and despite the direct calls of numerous states
and international institutes to end the blockade—its promises regarding the
security of the Artsakh Armenians cannot, and will not, be considered with
any reliability or credibility whatsoever.
3. This would have a devastating impact on the prospect of a just and dignified
solution to the dispute as it exposes the fact that Azerbaijan is unable to
adhere to its promises and obligations when it concerns the security, safety
and indeed survival of the Artsakh Armenians.
4. By its own actions, Azerbaijan directly caused conditions in which it
introduced its “alternative” solution, which, to no surprise, would extricate
it from its own assumed international obligations concerning the safety,
security and survival of the Artsakh Armenians as ethnic Armenians.
5. Facilitating the untethering of Azerbaijan from its international obligations
in the Corridor by allowing an Akna road “end run” only discredits any
future Azerbaijani proposal or promise as to guaranteeing the security of
Artsakh Armenians.
6. The security and safety of the Artsakh Armenians, and even the prospect of
a negotiated resolution, depends on the Corridor’s functioning within the
international framework established by the Trilateral Statement, the ICJ
order and the demands of several key players in the international
The Akna road “alternative” undermines several key purposes of the Corridor. It is not
merely a humanitarian road, and it cannot have an “alternative” given its unique bandwidth, both
current and prospective. The opening of the Akna road will only lead to the Corridor’s devaluation,
Azerbaijan’s strategic side-stepping of its international obligations as to the Artsakh Armenians
and, with that, a devastating precedent irreversibly derailing Azerbaijan’s credibility in any
discussions relating to any “security guarantees” as to the Artsakh Armenians.
Azerbaijan’s proposal of the Akna road is, at its core, an additional and powerful tool in
furtherance of Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian policies. It is not a humanitarian gesture; it is quite the
The easiest humanitarian gesture would be to unblock the Corridor as demanded by the
United States and several other countries. Accordingly, it is clear that the proposal of the Akna
road has other purposes for Azerbaijan.
D. Azerbaijan Will Use the Akna Road to Make the Corridor Obsolete.
1. The Akna road will ultimately be Azerbaijan’s only road if it opens.
Azerbaijan will argue that it will provide for “its own residents” through the
Akna road and that there is no reason to use the Corridor at all.
2. Azerbaijan will force use the Akna road (where it has no international legal
limitations) instead of the Corridor which, in its view, is plagued by
international obligations and requirements with which it does not want to
comply. The Akna road will be the only road Azerbaijan will allow third
parties to use.
3. In fact, Azerbaijan will likely close the Corridor altogether upon the
opening of an Akna road, arguing that since there is no demarcation and
delimitation between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and therefore there is no
reason to allow the Corridor to operate.
4. At that point, Azerbaijan may even leverage the opening of the Corridor
with its aspirations to have a “corridor” in Syunik. Since the Corridor has
comprehensive and multifold value to the Artsakh Armenians, as noted
above, the need for the Corridor will not dissipate, allowing for Azerbaijan
to leverage it for other military/political aspirations that will only further
destabilize the region.
E. Azerbaijan Will Use the Akna Road to Effectuate the Complete Dependence
of the Artsakh Armenians on Azerbaijan.
1. The opening of an Akna road would lead to the complete dependence of
Artsakh Armenians on Azerbaijan for food, energy, supplies, and even
movement. It will be a valve which Azerbaijan can turn on and off at its
whim. It will lead to Azerbaijan’s complete political/military dominance
over the Artsakh Armenians.
2. This will obviate the need for any talks aimed at securing a “just and
dignified” solution for the Artsakh Armenians, since it will lead to the
outright imposition of conditions by Azerbaijan.
3. Actual conditions on the ground indicate that these imposed conditions will
not allow for any security guarantees whatsoever and will be oppressive. In
fact, this prospect of complete domination will directly fuel the ethnic
cleansing or genocide of the Artsakh Armenians.
F. The Akna Road Will Become a Tool for Azerbaijan’s Oppression of the
Artsakh Armenians.
1. To be clear, in the climate in which Azerbaijani racial enmity against
Artsakh Armenians (and Armenians in general) is so charged and pervasive,
the Akna road will simply become a tool to oppress the people of Artsakh.
The government of Azerbaijan would be to introduce any restrictions, any
limitations, and do so at any time.
2. Azerbaijan can open or close the road based on unsubstantiated pretexts
(like it did to close the Corridor arguing that Armenians were transporting
munitions)—or no pretexts at all—to demand concessions, detentions, and
3. Furthermore, the prospect of unhindered free movement, safety and security
of Artsakh Armenians compelled to use an Akna road is unconvincing given
that it is not able to be guaranteed now in the Corridor despite the
international political and legal framework requiring such free movement
in both directions.
G. Azerbaijan Will Use the Akna Road to Execute Military Operations Inside
Artsakh Proper.
1. Azerbaijan’s oppression will be magnified because it will use the Akna road
to deploy military forces into the Armenian-inhabited parts of Artsakh.
2. The Akna road will enable Azerbaijan to deploy armed forces and
equipment in furtherance of the so-called “integration” framework, under
labels "security forces” or even for the purpose of “liberating” “its
residents” from the “separatist junta”.
3. Armed forces deployed in the Armenian-inhabited parts of Artsakh will
increase the risk of military force, violence and oppression.
4. Access through the Akna road will also be an invitation to “security” raids
in the Armenian-inhabited parts of Artsakh for special operations which will
open the door to further subjugation, abductions, and likely atrocities.
H. Azerbaijan Will Use the Akna Road to Conduct Unfettered Abductions of
Artsakh Armenians.
1. In the case of the opening of an Akna road, the Azerbaijani government will
be able to conduct unfettered operations against Artsakh Armenian
individuals without limitation. The Akna road would give Azerbaijan the
opportunity, capability, and infrastructure to conduct the abductions of
Artsakh Armenians.
2. Azerbaijan has repeatedly issued statements labeling entire categories of
Artsakh Armenians as “criminals”, “separatists”, participants in the socalled "Khojalu Genocide". The Akna road would be a physical inroad to
effectuate military operations to abduct Artsakh Armenians.
3. Middle-aged and older groups in the Artsakh Armenians population would
be especially vulnerable and targeted, as they would have been military
aged in the 1990s and possible participants in the first Artsakh war. These
now elderly men would be illegally arrested, imprisoned, and tortured, and
evidence of such abductions and torture is omnipresent and well
4. Indeed, the abduction of Artsakh citizen Vagif Khachatryan from the illegal
Lachin checkpoint is a case point, as Azerbaijan executed this abduction
directly from an ICRC convoy.
The Akna road will be used by Azerbaijan to render the Corridor obsolete, tighten
its isolation of the Artsakh Armenians from Armenia and employ a myriad of oppressive
methods aimed at domination not “integration” and a life of ongoing oppression, not one
of “justice and dignity.”
Azerbaijan’s conduct is clear: impose a self-serving blockade engineered to shift
the narrative to a humanitarian one and provide an opening for a “humanitarian”
“alternative road” that serves its underlying campaign to oppress and ethnically cleanse the
Artsakh Armenians. The humanitarian pretext of an Akna road proposal is a convenient
cover for Azerbaijan to capitalize on its anti-Armenian agenda, unhindered by the
international community.
The humanitarian gesture is to open the Corridor as demanded by the international
community. The Akna road proposal serves another agenda altogether—and that agenda
only invites further oppression, violence and indignities on the Artsakh Armenians.
Azerbaijan has demonstrated its willingness to act arbitrarily, and the very nature of its
political system means that there are no internal checks and balances to limit or curtail arbitrary
action by its leadership and the military establishment that serves him.
The Akna road only provides Azerbaijan direct access to the very people Azerbaijan has
already openly attacked—physically and in racist rhetoric—and continues to attack right now.
Such direct access is neither conducive to a just and dignified resolution, nor is it humane at this
In this context of abject arbitrariness, the Akna road proposal simply introduces yet another
opportunity, and likely an irreversible one, for more unhindered conduct by Azerbaijan targeting
Artsakh Armenians. It removes controls, rather than reinforces them, against Azerbaijan’s clear
ability and demonstrated conviction to act unobstructed and uncontrolled against the safety and
security of the Artsakh Armenians.
I. The Akna Road Would Have No Third Party Checks and Balances on
Azerbaijani Authority or Conduct.
1. The movement of people, vehicles, and goods along the Akna road will be
fully regulated, policed and controlled by Azerbaijani authorities. This is
unlike the legal and political arrangement of the Corridor, where
Azerbaijani legislation does not apply.
2. Azerbaijan’s willingness to act illegally in regulating, policing and
controlling movement within the Corridor, suggests that there will be no
ability of any third party to circumscribe Azerbaijan’s conduct in the Akna
3. Azerbaijani bodies will be able to act on the spot, without oversight or
controls, through border guards, customs bodies, police, and even military.
The opportunities by which an unchecked Azerbaijan can impose demands
on Artsakh Armenians will expand astronomically, as will instances of
abuse, humiliation, indignities, and violence.
4. Even the external check provided by access to certain tribunals for justice
will be impacted tremendously as Artsakh Armenians will be forced to turn
Azerbaijani authorities, courts and institutions– notoriously corrupt, and in
a society in which anti-Armenian hatred has been institutionalized and statesponsored even–to address instances of wrongdoing.
5. Access to international judicial protection such as the European Court of
Human Rights will be likewise thwarted for incidents suffered by Artsakh
Armenians by Azerbaijani authorities on the Akna road, because of the
requirement to exhaust legal remedies. Artsakh Armenians will no longer
be able to immediately apply to the ECHR but will have to apply to
Azerbaijani courts first and in this climate of state-sponsored hate speech
and oppression in order to exhaust their “domestic” resources.
6. The opening of the Akna road is, in fact, irresponsible, reckless and
inhumane in the context of Azerbaijan’s abject arbitrariness and antiArmenian policies where there will be no third-party checks and balances
on Azerbaijani authority and conduct.
J. There Will Be No Internal Controls on Arbitrariness Either.
1. The context is only further exacerbated by the fact that Azerbaijan, as an
authoritarian state, does not even have sufficient internal checks and
balances to prevent abject arbitrariness in its treatment of the Artsakh
2. The arbitrariness invited by the Akna road proposal must be understood in
context of Azerbaijan’s anti-Armenian policy, its ongoing wrongful
subjection of the Artsakh Armenians to mass starvation, and its rhetoric of
hate, ethnic cleansing and even genocide emanating from Baku, from the
highest levels of government–and the fact that it is a unitary authoritarian
3. The Azerbaijani government will have absolute discretion in its actions at
the Akna road. This will ultimately include how and when humanitarian aid
is permitted, how and when food is distributed, what products are supplied
and not supplied—such as low-quality food, tampered food, and control
over medicines.
4. The backdrop to this suggested “alternative” in which Azerbaijan will have
greater if not complete control, and certainly not less, should be shocking
given that it has had no qualms about inducing food, medicine, and product
shortages to cause extreme human suffering, death, and miscarriages
5. Azerbaijan sees the Akna proposal as an “out”: a mechanism by which to
reduce international outrage at the ongoing starvation it has imposed on the
Artsakh Armenians, shift and reduce international focus, and then
ultimately rid itself of the international obligations that are woven into the
very purpose of the Corridor.
6. The Akna road invites, even institutionalizes, the lack of controls on
Azerbaijan’s conduct against the Artsakh Armenians and, in doing so,
assists Azerbaijan’s subjugation policy. It is not a humanitarian gesture, and
it should not be misunderstood as one.
K. The Opening of the Akna Road Will Legitimize Azerbaijan’s Impunity and
Remove Transparency as the Only Remaining Check Against Arbitrariness.
1. Transparency can sometimes serve as a check against illegal state conduct,
albeit a slow one. Where neither external nor internal checks exist,
transparency may be the only hope for even a retardant against unhindered
state action. However, transparency will be diffused with the opening of the
Akna road.
2. The opening of the Akna road will advance Azerbaijan’s thesis that the
“Karabakh” issue is “resolved”, that there is no separate Armenian
population problem, and that the issues are now “internal”.
3. This unilateral transformation of the conflict to an “internal” matter should
be monumentally concerning as it will mark the beginning of the end of
international transparency as to Azerbaijan’s conduct against the Artsakh
Armenians—just at the time when mass starvation is likely and the
existence of genocidal intent has been noted by international law experts
and watchdogs.
4. Azerbaijan’s long-standing policy of opposing any international presence
in Artsakh will mean that Artsakh Armenians will be left alone in a
transparency desert. Ultimately, Azerbaijan will eject the ICRC itself,
removing the only international organization now operating in Artsakh and
upon which even the United Nations relies for information.
5. In this darkness, Azerbaijan certainly will be able to ignore the Artsakh
Armenians’ rights to self-determination, protected status, and/or security
concerns and impose conditions unilaterally without the need to engage in
any dispute resolution or abide by any international obligations or
6. The consequences will be devastating, as it will be clear to Azerbaijani that
there are no consequences to what it believes should be the final solution of
the Artsakh Armenians.
7. Azerbaijan will force the displacement and emigration of the local
Armenian population, and those Artsakh Armenians remaining will be
either destroyed or deprived of personal security and any reasonable
prospect of living as ethnic Armenians.
8. The opening of the Akna road will mean the legitimization of Azerbaijan's
unfettered right to impose inhuman conditions on the Artsakh Armenians
amidst an institutionalized environment of anti-Armenian hate without any
oversight or even admonition, let alone accountability and punishment for
Azerbaijani deprivations, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Azerbaijan’s proposal of opening an Akna road is not a humanitarian gesture. It is an
invitation to the imposition of political and military dominance and oppression over the Artsakh
Armenians without international oversight, without the possibility of any security guarantees, and
without the prospect of a just and dignified negotiated resolution.
It is intended to rid Azerbaijan of international attention as to its treatment of the Artsakh
Armenians and to rid Azerbaijan of its international obligations as to the Corridor. For Azerbaijan,
the Akna road is a crucial mechanism to carry out the direct subjugation and final solution of the
Artsakh Armenians without the red tape of international oversight.
The opening of an Akna road will likely mean the end of the ability of the people of Artsakh
to live in their homeland as ethnic Armenians and, in furtherance of that openly-espoused
Azerbaijani goal, it will plague the next several years with an unfathomable human suffering,
starvation, abductions, oppression, torture, indignities and far worse.