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Volume 727: debated on Tuesday 31 January 2023

1. What diplomatic steps his Department is taking to help support the re-opening of the Lachin corridor and alleviation of the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. (903363)

We seek a return to negotiation and a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. I spoke to Armenian Foreign Minister Mirzoyan on 18 January regarding the humanitarian situation there, and I met the Azerbaijani ambassador yesterday and noted the urgent need to reopen the Lachin corridor immediately. The Start Fund, to which the United Kingdom is a significant donor, has activated a £350,000 response to support those affected by the developing situation.

This blockade has now run for 50 days and is placing children at risk of malnutrition because of the lack of food and medicine getting through. We have also seen human rights organisations making claims of extrajudicial killings and abuse of prisoners in Nagorno-Karabakh. Yet, when the Minister wrote to my hon. Friend the Member for Newport East (Jessica Morden) to answer her concerns, he bafflingly talked about an expectation that the internal investigation by the Azerbaijan Prosecutor’s Office would produce meaningful results. Surely it cannot be right for the same judge and jury to be marking their own homework? Why can we not press for international, independent solutions to this terrible tragedy?

What we are pressing for is a return to negotiations and a peaceful settlement to this conflict; I will travel to the region in the coming months and I will make that point.

Is the Minister aware that last week at the Council of Europe we held a debate on this very subject? The benefit of that debate was that both the Azeris and the Armenians were present and participating. It was a tense diplomatic stand-off, because there are other, bigger powers involved in the situation. Does he agree that the situation must be approached very carefully?

Indeed I do. I am aware of that debate and I applaud my hon. Friend’s work on the Council of Europe. We hope that both sides will return to the negotiating table and we will use all the tools at our disposal to ensure that there are no destabilising influences from outside the region.