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Azerbaijan ready to allow 'regular' aid access to Nagorno-Karabakh

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GENEVA: Azerbaijan said Wednesday it was prepared to allow the Red Cross to bring humanitarian aid into the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh on a "regular basis", accusing Armenian separatists of blocking access.

Tensions over Nagorno-Karabakh have flared in recent months, as Armenia accuses Azerbaijan of obstructing traffic on the Lachin corridor -- the sole road linking Armenia to the Armenian-populated breakaway region.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov stressed his government's "commitment and our readiness to provide access".

Speaking to reporters with the United Nations correspondent's association in Geneva, he said he had met with the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in the Swiss city and had "reconfirmed our commitment to cooperation".

"ICRC is ready. The government of Azerbaijan is ready" for aid to be brought in, he said.

"It can be conducted on a regular basis," he said, adding that "the only missing point at the moment... is still the blocking (by) the local Armenians".

His comments came after Russian humanitarian aid arrived Tuesday in Nagorno-Karabakh via territory controlled by Azerbaijan, according to separatist authorities in the Armenian-populated area.

The Lachin corridor is policed by Russian peacekeepers as part of a ceasefire agreement Moscow brokered between the ex-Soviet Caucasus nations in 2020.

Baku has rejected Armenia's claim, saying Nagorno-Karabakh could receive supplies via Azerbaijani-controlled territory.

On September 1, Azerbaijan agreed to simultaneously reopen, for humanitarian supplies, both the Lachin corridor and the Aghdam road linking Nagorno-Karabakh with the rest of Azerbaijan.

Bayramov said Wednesday that the "ICRC is ready to organise everything", adding the organisation had two convoys ready to go "in a matter of hours".

He said the convoys could move "in parallel" using the Aghdam and Lachin routes simultaneously.

"We are ready at any scale, ... (within) respect to norms and procedures of Azerbaijani legislation," he said.

An ICRC spokeswoman confirmed to AFP Wednesday that the organisation "stands ready to deliver large shipments of desperately needed humanitarian assistance by any route possible".

"We are extremely concerned for the tens of thousands of people who urgently need food, medicine and other essential items," she said.

"We hope a humanitarian consensus is reached very soon so that our work can resume and we can get aid to those who need it." — AFP

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