Azerbaijan tightens border controls with Armenia (ANALYTICS)
By Naghi Ahmadov
On July 11, 2023, Azerbaijan suspended the passage of cars through the “Lachin” border checkpoint on the border with Armenia due to the detection of smuggling in vehicles of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) intended for medical evacuation. The suspension of movement is temporary and will continue until necessary investigative measures have been completed, News.az reports.
The State Border Service of Azerbaijan reported that since the establishment of the “Lachin” border checkpoint on the state border with the Republic of Armenia, necessary conditions have been created for the passage of vehicles of the ICRC across the state border, subject to appropriate border and customs clearance.
Nevertheless, since July 1, repeated attempts of smuggling various types of goods, such as mobile phones, cigarettes petrol, gasoline, etc. hidden in the ICRC vehicles driven by Armenian citizens have been revealed. Although Azerbaijani government has warned the ICRC about this through diplomatic channels, the illegal actions continued and not being prevented.
Meanwhile, the use of vehicles belonging to the ICRC which reserved for medical evacuation for smuggling purposes is clearly a gross violation of the national legislation of Azerbaijan and international law. In parallel, this evidence proves that the ICRC as a humanitarian organization abused the power and the privilege of being allowed more freedom in Azerbaijani territory, therefore, it can’t be trusted anymore.
The ICRC has later acknowledged that its cars have been transporting illegal cargo through the “Lachin” border checkpoint on the Azerbaijan-Armenia border: “The ICRC is aware of concerns raised about the transport of unauthorised goods across the Lachin Corridor and does not support any such activity.”
As known, Azerbaijani authorities set up a checkpoint on the border with Armenia at the entrance of the Lachin road which connects the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan with Armenia on April 23, 2023. Azerbaijan’s installation of the checkpoint along the Lachin road was decisive moment as it was used by Armenians for trafficking of arms and Armenian-made mines until recently. Therefore, due to the potential security risks, this was needed to be effectively managed because national security was at stake.
On the other hand, a growing concern over smuggling issues have been increasingly defined as border security problems. It is clear that no country can and should tolerate such illegality in its territory. Given that it is the sovereign right of each state to control its border, this leads us to say that strict border control is fundamental to anti-trafficking and anti-smuggling interventions.
The recent developments properly raised a legitimate question in Azerbaijani public that why should an office of an international organization located in another country operate in the sovereign territory of Azerbaijan? After all, the ICRC has a Baku office and therby conditions should be created for their free activity in Khankendi through Agdam.
All above-mentioned facts once again show that there is no need for ICRC employees working in the Karabakh economic region to receive supplies from Armenia, hence, they can supply the same resources in Azerbaijan, and they will not have to cross the border of the two countries.
So, these facts oblige Azerbaijan to tighten measures and intensify security controls at its border with Armenia.
Naghi Ahmadov, a senior fellow at the Center of Analysis of International Relations (AIR Center), exclusively for News.Az