Azerbaijan Slams France Over Macron's Remarks On Border Crisis With Armenia
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has responded to French President Emmanuel Macron's latest comments on the ongoing Armenian-Azerbaijani border crisis, and called on Paris to “remain officially neutral” as a Minsk Group co-chair.
"France has a special liking to Armenia, but as a Minsk Group co-chair it should remain officially neutral," Leyla Abdullayeva, spokesperson for the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said on 1 June, adding that France "has never called for Armenian troops' withdrawal from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan" although Paris has been a Minsk Group co-chair since 1997.
Abdullayeva also said that France did not play "any role" in the ceasefire agreement signed between Baku and Yerevan in November 2020 or in the ongoing Russia-mediate Azerbaijani-Armenian talks on reopening of transport links.
She said that Azerbaijani troops were on their positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier and that there were no Armenian prisoners of war in Azerbaijan.
Earlier, in a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Paris on 1 June, Macron said that "The Azerbaijani troops must leave Armenia’s sovereign territory," and added that "I am calling on the parties to return to the positions held by them on 11 May. France is ready to facilitate discussions," Macron said, and added that "we stand in solidarity with Armenia and we will continue to do so".
The French authorities have openly supported Armenia in the war with Azerbaijan in the latter's Karabakh region last year when the decades-old Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict transformed into an all-out war on 27 September. Azerbaijani troops liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Fuzuli, Jabrayil, Zangilan, Gubadli and Shusha from Armenia's occupation in Karabakh in a 44-day-long military operation codenamed "Iron Fist."
On 10 November, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Russia signed a trilateral statement, which brought an end to the conflict's military phase. The document obliged Armenia to return the districts of Aghdam, Kalbajar and Lachin to Azerbaijan by 1 December. Russia deployed a peacekeeping contingent to safeguard the ceasefire in the region under the agreement.
Azerbaijani forces detained around 70 Armenian saboteurs in Karabakh (Garabagh) and on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border after the ceasefire was signed on 10 November, 2020. Sixty-two armed Armenian servicemen have been caught after they committed separate attacks on the Azerbaijani positions, killing four servicemen and a civilian in Karabakh in November and December last year.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been locked in a border crisis since mid-May after the reported movement of the Azerbaijani troops into two sections of Armenia's state border - one in Syunik Region and the other in Gegharkunik Region.
On 27 May, Azerbaijani troops besieged and captured six Armenian saboteurs who were trying to plant mines on the routes used for supplying the units of the Azerbaijani army stationed along the Armenia-Azerbaijan border. A total of 24 Armenian diversionists have reportedly infiltrated the Azerbaijani territory on the same day to commit provocations.
Azerbaijani authorities say those who resorted to provocations against the Azerbaijani forces after the ceasefire was signed are terrorists. However, Armenia said the soldiers had been "kidnapped".
On 28 May, Azerbaijan said that its soldier was wounded in an armistice violation in the Naxcivan exclave on the Armenian border. On 31 May, the Azerbaijani Defence Ministry said that a Grifon-12 UAV of the Armenian army had been grounded "using special technical means" in Kalbacar District on the Armenian border.
The Azerbaijani Defence Ministry and State Border Service said in a joint statement on 2 June that a group of about 40 Armenian soldiers had crossed 400 metres into Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani troops reacted immediately and forced the Armenian soldiers to leave, but no weapons were used, the statement said. The incident happened in Azerbaijan's Kalbacar District on the evening of 1 June.
Meanwhile, the Armenian Defence Ministry denied the Azerbaijani report as "disinformation", saying that Armenian troops had not crossed into Azerbaijan "either on 1 June or previous days".
On 1 June, Yerevan announced suspension of the Russia-mediated talks with Azerbaijan on reopening of transport links due to border crisis.
"The work is not continuing as of now. I have stated many times that these activities will be effective if the general situation is at least stable. And in this situation, given what is going on at the border, I do not believe that constructive work is possible on that platform. The contacts were interrupted... after the border incidents," Armenian Acting Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigoryan told a briefing with journalists aired by Armenian Public TV on 1 June.
Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to set up the trilateral working group to start unblocking transport communication lines between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Moscow on 11 January. On 30 May, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said that "there are good results" regarding the transport corridor that is to connect mainland Azerbaijan with its exclave of Naxcivan and further with Turkey via Armenia.