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France Hinders Azerbaijan-Armenia Peace Process

Planned peace discussion cancelled after Macron crosses Aliyev

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A photo from 2018 when the President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev, met with French President Emmanuel Macron. (Photo: president.az)

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Recently, the French Senate adopted a resolution calling for sanctions to be imposed on Azerbaijan and for France to recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, an Armenian separatist entity established within Azerbaijani territory in violation of four UN Security Council resolutions.  

This Armenian entity has about as much international legitimacy as the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, yet the French Senate calls for them to obtain international recognition.   

Adding fuel to the fire, the French Senate also called upon Azerbaijan to withdraw from “Armenian territory” last September during the escalation of violence between both countries, even though there has been no delineation of borders between the two post-Soviet republics. Over 6,000 people were killed following these clashes over a period of a couple of weeks, yet France ignored the Azerbaijani deaths and took a one-sided approach to the issue, even though the ones who started the border confrontation were Armenian saboteurs.   

Although the French Senate resolution was non-binding and has no legal force, this resolution still severely hinders the peace process between both countries. This is the case especially considering the fact that French President Emmanuel Macron has also made biased pro-Armenian statements. Even though he never called for the recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, he did claim that Karabakh was “disputed territory,” even though these lands have been recognized as part of Azerbaijan under four UN Security Council resolutions. He also said: “Azerbaijan launched a terrible war, with many deaths, (and) atrocious scenes.” 

On November 25, Reuters reported that Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev had canceled a meeting planned for December 7 that was to include the head of the EU and Macron. He asserted Macron has  adopted an “anti-Azerbaijan position” and was “insulting Baku,” and thus should play no role in the peace talks: “Macron … attacked Azerbaijan and accused us of what we haven’t done. It is clear that under these circumstances, with this attitude, France cannot be part of the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia.”

Dr. Lizzie Wahab, a member of the Advisory Board of the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy, concurred: “As a US academic, I have studied the Azerbaijani diaspora in length. France’s unwarranted interference in regional relations seems more motivated by an attempt to play its former role on the world stage than to actually assist in a just resolution to the key issues involved.”

She added: “Happily, there are more responsible parties at work who would not benefit from a scattershot approach of a branch of the French government. At such a critical stage in peace treaty discussions between Azerbaijan and Armenia, it is vital that the negotiation process be respected and allowed to follow its natural course.”    

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However, one must keep everything in perspective. Dr. Maxime Gauin, another member of the Advisory Board for the Dona Gracia Center for Diplomacy, still thinks despite this France is more pro-Azerbaijan than the US: “France sold several million dollars’ worth of military material to Azerbaijan in 2015 and 2020. If we want to speak about the French Parliament, in 1992, the US Congress blocked any military cooperation between America and Azerbaijan. It is always bypassed, but the US Congress never canceled this binding decision. This was much more forceful than the empty words we are discussing today.”

Gauin blames the present plight of Azerbaijan in France on external players: “In July, August and the beginning of September of this year, there were several attempts by the Armenians in France to provoke a crisis. But except for a few voices close to the Armenian community and the Kremlin, no one supported them. No one supported them for months in the French media. But, the problem is that Azerbaijan spends millions of dollars to defend itself in America, but they do not likewise in France. Until you reach the masses, everything explodes. And that is exactly what happened in September and October of this year. If a PR company had come forward and said that Armenia is a proxy of an Islamic Republic of Iran, Armenia would have no one to support them today as no one wants to appear as a useful idiot of the mullahs.”

He added the fact that Armenians enjoy impunity in France does not help the situation: “The most extremist of the Armenian Diaspora threatened journalists both in 2020 and more recently, yet the journalists did not file complaints. When the Armenians attacked Azerbaijanis and had blood on their face and were beaten, no one filed a complaint. This created an atmosphere of impunity. Fortunately, things have started to change thanks to the Embassy of Azerbaijan and Turkey, as the Armenians recently threatened the Turkish Ambassador. This is an enduring problem that has an effect on the situation.”

Even though Aliyev is upset with Macron, Gauin claimed that there are worse actors in the French political landscape: “The election of Macron and the legislative elections that followed changed the political landscape domestically. The centrist parties collapsed. Both the extreme right and left dominate in the Senate. Macron’s party, which is centrist, abstained in the French Senate vote. Macron’s party has very few representatives in the French Senate. The far right and left both have revengeful feelings and dominate the French Senate, and this is exploited by the Armenian Diaspora. This feeling of impunity makes them dangerous. No one sues if they attack a normal French journalist or member of the Azerbaijani and Turkish community.” 

Only when the Turkish Ambassador is threatened do people start to care.           

Rachel Avraham is a political analyst working at the Safadi Center for International Diplomacy, Research, Public Relations and Human Rights.  She is the author of “Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings at the American, Israeli and Arab Media.” 

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