Politics

France Can’t Be Fair Mediator In Karabakh Problem Unless Paris Abandons Pro-Armenian Bias

Fuad Muxtarlı Analysis 25 September 2019
France Can’t Be Fair Mediator In Karabakh Problem Unless Paris Abandons Pro-Armenian Bias

Since Azerbaijan has gained independence and established diplomatic relations with France, the latter has so far had several ambassadors representing official Paris in Baku.

The latest French ambassador presented his credentials to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev a few days ago and sounded his nation’s alleged determination to step up efforts for the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that has occupied not only the agenda of Baku and Yerevan but almost of the whole Eurasia region for three decades.

At the meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, French ambassador Zacharie Gross vowed that official Paris would intensify efforts for the resolution of the problem and this statement came at a time when Paris’ mediation role in the South Caucasus causes doubts.

People rightly question similar declarations as confidence in what the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs utter on the Karabakh conflict is at an all-time low and the new ambassador’s Karabakh remarks is just another cliché. You ask why? The reason for is official Paris’ dual game. On the one hand, official Paris assures Azerbaijan of loyalty to principals of inviolability of state borders, on the other hand, France hosts separatists from Azerbaijan’s separatist Karabakh region and sign various cooperation documents with districts of the breakaway region.

And now a question people often asks is when France will be responsible for supporting the Karabakh separatists. Last week, the Armenian media excitedly wrote about yet another “success” in recognizing the illegal regime in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan. As the Armenian media wrote, a declaration of friendship was signed in Grenoble between the “Hadrut region of the Republic of Artsakh and the Isere department of the French Republic”.

Another quote: “The declaration was signed by the head of the administration of the Hadrut region, Kamo Petrosyan, and the chairman of the department’s board, Iser Jean-Pierre Barbier. In total, this is the fourteenth agreement signed between the administrative-territorial units of France and Artsakh. Hovhannes Gevorgyan, Permanent Representative of the Artsakh Republic in France, attended the signing ceremony...”

Thus, the country, which is the co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, and is obliged to be impartial in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, is in fact cooperating with the separatist, unrecognized regime, has a permanent representative of this illegal entity.

And the signed friendship agreement is not the first, but the 14th and certainly won’t be last. The head of the French Iser department is absolutely not "annoyed" that in June four declarations of friendship between French and Karabakh cities were cancelled by decision of the administrative courts. He is not interested in the fact that constantly the official representatives of the French Foreign Ministry declare that the France recognizes the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. Such assurances usually follow immediately after the on-duty protest of Azerbaijan in connection with the next "curtsy" of France towards the unrecognized regime.

For example, recently, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry condemned the trip by a group of French parliamentarians to Nagorno-Karabakh occupied by the Armenian armed forces. In this regard, the charge d'affaires of France in Azerbaijan was summoned to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry and was given a note of protest addressed to the French side.

The note of protest draws particular attention to the fact that the implementation of such illegal trips seriously undermines the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs, including France, whose goal is the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict through negotiations. In addition, it is detrimental to the authority of France as an intermediary in this process.

The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry called on the French government to "take decisive measures to stop the illegal trips of the parliamentarians of this country to the occupied territories of Azerbaijan" and thereby, confirm the consistency of its impartial approach as a mediator in the settlement.

As you can see, here we are not talking about any departments or mayors, but about representatives of the highest legislative body. And this suggests that all these contacts with the separatists, no matter how they try to suppress, are the position of many people in France.

By the way, we recall that French co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group Jacques Faure, having left this post, made anti-Azerbaijani statements at the 89th Rose-Rot seminar in NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Yerevan. The French Foreign Ministry then assured Azerbaijan that this was only his personal opinion, and not the position of France.

But can a person with such an attitude towards Azerbaijanis be impartial in carrying out his mediation mission? And therefore, a doubt arises: does the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair Stefan Visconti really want a fair settlement to the conflict and doesn’t “play” on the side of Armenia and the Karabakh separatists?

In short, there are reasons to doubt the objectivity of France as a co-chair, as they say, a dime a dozen. But the next anti-Azerbaijani step on the part of France, in fact, does not entail any serious consequences for this country.

As before, the French co-chair is being received in Baku, French companies continue to operate in the country, and Azerbaijani-French business forums are being held in Baku and one was held this summer. According to Economy Minister Sahin Mustafayev, Azerbaijan has invested $2.6 billion in investments in the French economy.

"At the same time, the volume of the French investments in the Azerbaijani economy amounted to $2.2 billion. At present, 45 French companies are involved in various sectors of the Azerbaijan economy. And I would also note the successful activity of the French company Total operating in Azerbaijan for many years," the minister said.

Mustafayev invited French companies to increase investment in Azerbaijan, noting that France should more effectively use the opportunities created in our country by French partners. The minister noted that Azerbaijan is France’s main partner in the region, as evidenced by the fact that Azerbaijan accounts for 62.4 percent of trade in the South Caucasus.

In addition, the French-Azerbaijan University has been opened in our country. We should also recall that sheds additional light on the position of France as an intermediary. In a February 2017 report of the Information Commission of the National Assembly on Political and Economic Relations of France and Azerbaijan, a line was drawn between “acts of the legislative bodies of territorial entities” and “political statements”.

It was concluded that "municipalities are not prohibited from signing friendship agreements even with the commune located in Nagorno-Karabakh, unless they are a decision of the legislative bodies."

That is, the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan is officially recognized, but it is not forbidden to cooperate with separatists. And with this position of France, we are widely opening the doors to our country in front of this country and creating all the opportunities for the work of its companies. And thus, we are, as it were, signaling that we can continue to act in the same spirit with respect to the Karabakh separatists...

We cannot but recall a well-known fact. When talking about France, they always emphasize the presence of an influential Armenian diaspora in this country. But it’s interesting how, according to the Committee on the Defense of the Armenian Affairs, about 600,000 Armenians can influence the politics of an almost 67-million-strong country?

It is unlikely that the protests and statements of Azerbaijan will change the pro-Armenian position of a large number of French politicians and officials. So, maybe it's time to take other, more decisive measures against the country, whose representatives regularly and verbally and in fact violate the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and support the separatists. And can this country – a backer of Armenia and a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group be a neutral and fair actor in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict?!

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