With tales of Russian torture chambers and civilian slaughter, the war in Ukraine is “horrifying enough”, says Nicholas Kristof in The New York Times. But what if another government was using the distraction of that conflict to “commit its own crimes against humanity”? That appears to be what’s happening in Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnically Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan. Having reclaimed most of the autonomous region by force in 2020, the Azerbaijani government “now wants to recover the rest”. It has blockaded the only road in and out – the Lachin corridor to Armenia – preventing deliveries of food and medicine. For the 120,000 Armenians trapped inside Nagorno-Karabakh, “the situation is dire”. A third of deaths in the region are reportedly due to malnutrition. As one local journalist told the BBC, “people are fainting in the bread queues”.
Let’s be frank: this looks a lot like genocide. Azerbaijan, a mostly Muslim country that speaks a Turkic language, is forcing a mostly Christian, Armenian-speaking population either to leave their homeland or starve to death. This isn’t an East-West issue: Washington and Moscow both think Azerbaijan should “end the suffering”. But with everyone’s focus on Ukraine, there is little international will to solve the problem. Perhaps the best hope now is that Azerbaijan agrees to re-open the Lachin corridor in exchange for Nagorno-Karabakh opening a road into Azerbaijan – a long-term goal of the Azerbaijani government. That would be “unsatisfying”, because it effectively rewards Azerbaijan for starving civilians. But the alternative – the “ethnic cleansing of Armenians” – is much worse.