French presidential candidate's visit to Karabakh sparks protest in Azerbaijan
French presidential candidate’s visit to Karabakh
French presidential candidate from the Republican party Valerie Pécresse visited the part of Karabakh controlled by Russian peacekeepers. There, she met with representatives of the authorities of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. This visit, as expected, caused a protest in Azerbaijan, although Baku is yet to comment on the matter.
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“Lachin corridor – the territory of Azerbaijan”
The Armenian authorities and the leadership of the peacekeepers were informed about the visit and even helped organize it, political observer Farhad Mammadov believes. “Let’s add some conspiracy here: this provocation took place shortly after the phone conversation between Presidents Putin and Macron”, he said.
“The goals of this provocation are:
— Opposition to the establishment of border posts in the Lachin corridor of Azerbaijan in response to the installation of border posts in the Zangezur corridor;
— Russia does not want to lose its exclusive role in the Lachin corridor, and in this respect the opinions of Russia and France are similar;
— Russia is updating the issue of the mandate for the Russian peacekeeping forces;
— The Armenian leadership, realizing that the issue of “status” is disappearing and the OSCE Minsk Group agenda is being transformed into an interstate one, is trying to keep the topic of “subjectivity” of the Armenians of Karabakh at least at the public level.
However, the Armenian leadership runs the risk of jeopardizing all developments in recent weeks. Yesterday, the Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia was already condemned on the topic of opening roads for Armenia before roads open for Azerbaijan. This provocation will further deepen the mistrust.
Let me remind you that Charles Michel’s statement indicated that countries have sovereignty over communications in their territories. That is, the Lachin corridor is the territory of Azerbaijan, and formalization of the peacekeepers’ activities is needed.
Before the CIS summit, this provocation could have consequences for both Armenia and the Russian peacekeeping contingent. The installation of posts at the entrance to the Lachin corridor is already becoming an internal requirement in Azerbaijan, and the peacekeepers did everything in their power to be treated with distrust in the Azerbaijani society.
A lot will depend on Baku’s actions in the next few days:
— The reaction can be directed towards France – not to stop the process with Armenia, but to hit the interests of France – to nullify all the attempts of the OSCE Minsk Group and continue operating, and to leave it in limbo, while increasing the role of the United States in humanitarian actions – the tireless Muradov (Rustam Muradov – the former commander of the Russian peacekeeping contingent) will be left out;
— Destroy a couple of military infrastructure facilities in the zone controlled by the peacekeepers;
— Conduct the next joint exercises with Turkey and Pakistan in Kalbajar and Lachin using UAVs.
Azerbaijan has a large number of pressure mechanisms in its arsenal, which can and should be applied”, Mammadov said.
Will French presidential candidate become persona non grata?
In his speech in Brussels, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said: “If there is no Zangezur corridor, then there will be no Lachin corridor. Azerbaijan will establish border and customs posts in this direction”, reminds political scientist, head of the Atlas analytical center Elkhan Shahinoglu.
“The French presidential candidate made an illegal visit through the Lachin corridor to Karabakh. Russian servicemen let anyone through the Lachin corridor, they have nothing to do with it.
Of course, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry may declare Valerie Pécresse “persona non grata”. But this is not a way out. We need to take control of the Lachin corridor so that people like Pécresse cannot enter our country and meet with separatists without the permission of Azerbaijan. Otherwise, we will have headaches more than once because of the Lachin corridor.
American congressmen, Russian deputies, and many others will illegally visit Azerbaijan after the French presidential candidate’s visit. In fact, this is why the Armenians are trying to increase the number of persons on the “black list” of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry and to increase the tension between our country and some foreign states.
What if the same Pécresse is elected President of France, will official Baku recognize her legitimacy in this case, will it terminate relations with this country? This is what the Armenians dream about.
For these reasons, our first task is to take control of the Lachin corridor, and this must be done before regional communications are opened”, Shahinoglu added.
“Pecresse is trying to score political points”
With her visit to Armenia and Karabakh, the French presidential candidate pursues the goal of gaining more votes in her own country, the former Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, diplomat Tofig Zulfugarov said:
“In France, the votes of the Armenian Diaspora do not exceed one percent, but experts believe that the elections can be held in a very tense struggle, and each vote can become decisive. In other words, Pecresse is trying to score points before the elections.
For these points, the Frenchwoman should thank the Russian peacekeepers.
Such visits create a compelling reason for Azerbaijan to finally take control of the Lachin corridor into its own hands. This issue must be resolved and it is necessary to put an end to such games against the sovereign rights of Azerbaijan”.