President Macron: Azerbaijani troops must withdraw from the sovereign territory of Armenia
Acting Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan visited France on June 1 and many experts assessed his trip as an attempt to balance Russia’s influence in Armenia.
During his joint public address with Pashinyan, Emmanuel Macron stated that France is ready to help Armenia on many issues, including the return of prisoners of war who are still being held in Azerbaijan after the end of the second Karabakh war.
In addition, the French president believes that Armenia is facing a security crisis. Macron said that the Azerbaijani troops, which have invaded the sovereign territory of Armenia on May 12, must leave it:
“The troops must retreat to their initial positions, as of May 11”. Earlier, the French President also talked about the possibility of providing Armenia with military assistance.
However, during a meeting with Pashinyan in Paris, Macron announced France’s intention to contribute to the establishment of peace in the region and the development of dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
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Macron-Pashinyan meeting in Paris
Emmanuel Macron said that France, as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, together with Russia and the United States, intends to do everything necessary to achieve de-escalation of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
He stressed that “in connection with the recent events on the border [between Armenia and Azerbaijan], its demarcation should be carried out only through negotiations and without the use of force”.
Nikol Pashinyan also emphasized the important role that Armenia’s partnership with France plays in the country’s development and wellbeing:
“It can be said with a high degree of probability that the Armenian people, the Republic of Armenia have always felt the support of France and the personal support of President Macron. I would like to emphasize that President Macron has been speaking the language of truth since the first day of the crisis in our region, and this voice has been heard throughout the world. For us, it is very important. I want to emphasize that French President Macron continues this commitment, it is extremely important in the process of ending the crisis in our region”.
During the talks, issues of economic cooperation between the two countries were also discussed.
Meeting in parliament
“France is on the side of Armenia, please convey our message to the Armenian people. We will do our best to establish stability in Armenia and prosperity in the country. You have always relied on us and you can rely on us now and in the future”, said Speaker of the French Parliament Richard Ferrand during a meeting with Pashinyan.
MP Ferrand added that France pays close attention to the processes taking place in the South Caucasus. He also stressed the importance of preserving the territorial integrity of Armenia, the need to ensure the early return of prisoners of war held in Azerbaijan, the preservation of the Armenian cultural heritage in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the involvement of UNESCO in this process.
During his address to the French Parliament, Nikol Pashinyan once again emphasized the importance of partnership with France for Armenia:
“It’s not just about politicians. Just a month ago, a poll was conducted in Armenia, and when asked which country is Armenia’s friend, the majority of respondents named France. Naturally, we are interested in an even greater presence of France in Armenia”.
Speaking about the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Nikol Pashinyan stressed the importance of the role of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs in this process. He also noted the importance of the resolutions adopted by the French Senate on the need to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.
On November 25, 2020, the French Senate adopted a resolution “On the need to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”, calling on the French government to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh in order to establish lasting peace in the region. The resolution also condemns the military aggression of Azerbaijan, carried out with the support of the Turkish authorities. However, the resolution was not legally binding and the only advisory in nature, meaning that the French government could take note of it but not implement it.
Political analyst Naira Hayrumyan commented on what Pashinyan’s visit to France could mean for the ongoing crisis in Armenia:
“Pashinyan’s trip may be related to an attempt to at least slightly counterbalance Russia’s snowballing influence in Armenia. Pashinyan understands that if you do not put up a barrier in the form of a ‘Western alternative’, then, the hour is uneven, Armenia will find itself in the Union State faster than Belarus. Armenia already has all the prerequisites for this to occur, including Russia’s complete control over the Armenian army, most of its borders, and direct influence over the political decisions of Yerevan.
To stop the onslaught of Russia, Pashinyan turned to the other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group – France and the United States [mediators in the negotiations on the settlement of the Karabakh conflict], and Macron responded with joy. Yerevan and Paris are trying to show Russia that it cannot act as it wishes in Armenia, and there are some red lines that it cannot cross.
In addition, Nikol Pashinyan is going all-in in order to secure his re-election in early elections on June 20 as there is a real risk of either political vendetta or legal persecution that may be launched against him. He may have hoped for Russia’s support in his re-election in return for following its directives, but he saw signals indicating that Russia would support other candidates. Now he’s trying to play it in Europe.
I will not consider Pashinyan’s European voyage a serious political action if he does not abandon the trilateral format (Yerevan-Moscow-Baku), does not demand the resumption of the Minsk process, and does not offer France to recognize Artsakh. In all other cases, it will be just like asking for political asylum in case of him losing in the elections”.