May 5th, 2020
Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) and COVID-19
In light of the global pandemic, the Government of Armenia initially declared a state of emergency from 16th March to 14th April. This has since been extended to 14th May.
On 24th March, the Government of Armenia announced a nationwide lockdown, limiting free movement in country for an initial 7-day period in order to limit the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19). These measures have since been extended until further notice.
As of 5th May 2020, Armenia had recorded 2,619 cases and 40 deaths with 1,111 recoveries.
Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) reported its first case of COVID-19 on 7th April after the return of an infected person from Armenia and by 8th April the region had reported 8 cases and 0 deaths.
In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, foreign ministers from Armenia and Azerbaijan met via video link on April 21st to discuss next steps for Nagorno-Karabakh. The talks were attended by the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe), after separate talks were independently held by each side.
Importantly, ministers on both sides acknowledged that due to COVID-19, it will be impossible to fulfill humanitarian requests in the area and that it was necessary to postpone any relief until further notice. Both sides understand the importance of a ceasefire in this period and made clear the need for a strict observance of an abstention from any provocative action. In regard to this, both parties agreed that tensions between them should be eased due to the anticipated impact COVID-19 will have on the citizens of Nagorno Karabakh and agreed to lift military blockades for now.
Furthermore, the Republic of Artsakh immediately responded to the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres’ appeal for an immediate global ceasefire on 24th March and confirmed its commitment to strictly observe the cease-fire in the Azerbaijan-Artsakh conflict zone, the statement noted.
Whilst in the political arena of Nagorno Karabakh, the second round of presidential elections were held on 14th April despite serious concerns over the spread of COVID-19. After the second round of voting, and a much-reduced turnout due to fear of the virus, Free Motherland candidate Arayik Harutyunyan received enough of the vote to become President-elect. Mr Harutyunyan had formerly been Prime Minister until the position was abolished in 2017.
For the first time, voters also elected 33 National Assembly members. The Free Motherland – UCA Alliance, United Motherland, Justice, ARF, and the Democratic Party all won seats in the National Assembly. As no party won a majority, coalition talks are likely to be held. The Free Motherland-UCA Alliance secured the most seats with 16 and the United Motherland followed with 9 seats.
Armenian President, Armen Sarkissian and Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan both congratulated the people of Artsakh on their election results. However the European Union, Turkey, Azerbaijan, NATO and other world powers announced they did not recognise the elections.
By Max Elgot
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