An Armenian refugee from Nagorno-Kharaback arrives in the city of Goris An Armenian refugee from Nagorno-Kharaback arrives in the city of Goris  (AFP or licensors)

Pope appeals for dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia

Pope Francis appeals to the international community to favour mediation between Azerbaijan and Armenia as tens of thousands of Armenians flee the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, and he prays for victims of a massive explosion in the city of Stepanakert.

By Linda Bordoni

Pope Francis said he has been following the dramatic situation of displaced Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh in recent days and reiterated his call for a political mediation between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Speaking during the Sunday Angelus he said: “I renew my call for dialogue between Azerbaijan and Armenia, hoping that the talks between the parties, with the support of the international community, will favour a lasting agreement that will put an end to the humanitarian crisis.”

A lightning offensive last week led by Azerbaijan in the contested enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh has led to an exodus of Armenian residents in the area after Baku ordered the region’s Armenian fighters to disarm and conflicting leaders signed a ceasefire agreement.

Armenian authorities said over 100,000 people had arrived in Armenia from the enclave, accounting for more than 80 per cent of the enclave's Armenian population. The two sides have been locked in conflict for three decades accusing each other of attacks, massacres and other atrocities.

In December 2022, Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia, accusing the Armenian government of using it for illicit weapons shipments to the region’s 'separatist' forces.

Prayers for victims of explosion in Stepanakert

Pope Francis also said he is praying for the victims of a tragic accident in the city of Stepanakert which serves as the de facto capital of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabackh.

“I assure you of my prayers for the victims of an explosion in a fuel depot near the town of Stepanakert,” he said.

At least 170 people are known to have died in the explosion and hospitals are struggling to treat the 290 people injured in the blast the after blockade in December left them with severe shortages of medical supplies. Some of the injured have now been evacuated by Armenian helicopters.

It is not yet clear what caused the explosion on the evening of September 25.

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01 October 2023, 12:48