The federal NDP and Bloc Québécois are calling on the Trudeau government to impose sanctions on Azerbaijan in response to its military incursion into Nagorno-Karabakh last week, an event that has forced nearly 30,000 ethnic Armenians from the disputed enclave into neighboring Armenia. .
“We recognize that Canada does not play a very important role in this [geographical] area. But this is something we can do, this is something the Canadian government can do, to express our dismay, to express that we are seeing civilians being attacked,” Heather McPherson, NDP foreign affairs critic, told Breaking:.
She and NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice last week wrote a letter to Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly calling for sanctions.
“As you know, there is no military solution to this conflict. Only diplomatic pressure and comprehensive dialogue will result in a long-term solution,” the parliamentarians wrote, adding that the government should consider “selective sanctions against Azerbaijani individuals and entities.” responsible for violations”. of international law and human rights abuses in the region.
“Canada’s sanctions regime has its flaws,” said Bloc Québécois foreign affairs critic Stéphane Bergeron during a debate in the House of Commons on Tuesday. “But it is an effective way to put pressure on foreign governments.
“What are we waiting for to sanction Azerbaijan for its unacceptable behavior not only towards Armenia but also towards its civilian population in Nagorno-Karabakh?”
About a quarter of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians who call Nagorno-Karabakh their ancestral home have fled the region since last week.
A long history of conflict
The territory is considered part of Azerbaijan under international law, but has a majority Armenian population.
Azerbaijan and Armenia fought two wars for control of the region in the early 1990s and in 2020. Ethnic Armenians prevailed in 1994 with Russia’s help and installed a de facto government.
With the backing of Turkey, Azerbaijan retook large swathes of Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territories three years ago. That 44-day battle ended after 6,000 deaths when Moscow negotiated a ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan and installed its own peacekeeping force.
But last year, Azerbaijan launched an economic blockade of the Lachin Corridor, a mountain pass that is the only land route between Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
After the region’s population was largely cut off from food and medical supplies for nearly 10 months, Azerbaijan last week announced a “counterterrorism” operation that it said would target military infrastructure. But local authorities reported that civilian population centers had been attacked, and local journalists on the ground reported that bombs had killed civilians.
The overwhelmed Armenian authorities announced that they would hand over their army’s weapons to Azerbaijan and enter into negotiations over the terms of surrender.
Armenian authorities said at least 200 people were killed in two days of shelling.
Azerbaijan later reopened the corridor to Armenia and allowed some supply trucks to travel toward Nagorno-Karabakh.
The International Committee of the Red Cross has announced that over the past week it “evacuated nearly 50 people with urgent medical needs and delivered 66 metric tons of wheat, medical supplies, diapers and 1,500 liters of fuel to power generators at medical facilities.” “.
But despite assurances from Azerbaijani officials that civilians would not be harmed, local journalists have reported displaced civilians taking shelter in public buildings without food or electricity in the region’s capital, Stepanakert. Locals have gathered in large numbers at the city’s unused airport and are asking Russian peacekeepers for help.
Citing what he called deliberate starvation tactics, former International Criminal Court prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo accused Azerbaijan of committing genocide.
Armenia’s government has accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing.
Possible sanctions, says Joly
On Tuesday, when pressured by opposition members to sanction Azerbaijan, Foreign Minister Mélanie Joly told the House of Commons that “everything is on the table.”
“When it comes to sanctions, we always want to act together with other countries because it is important to put pressure on the country in question,” he said. “The use of sanctions is something that can be very efficient.
“We have followed this very closely and continue to call on Azerbaijan to stop hostilities. There must be freedom of movement for aid and humanitarian supplies, and civilians must be protected.”
Joly added that all parties involved in the 2020 ceasefire agreement must honor their commitments and said he raised these issues at international bodies, including the United Nations General Assembly last week.
He said Canada strongly supports a comprehensive peace treaty, adding that Ottawa has committed to sending two experts to a newly launched European Union peace mission in Armenia.
The European Union has a memorandum of understanding with Azerbaijan on the purchase of oil and gas from Baku. The EU signed the agreement in July 2022 as a way to disconnect from Russian energy supplies.
The EU and the United States have made aid commitments for the refugee flows that arrived in Armenia over the past week. Joly’s department did not respond when asked if Canada would do the same.
Breaking: has reached out to the Azerbaijani Embassy for comment and will provide an update if there is a response.