Armenia Azerbaijan Geopolitics

Criticism as the French appear biased to Armenian rhetoric

By | Rachel Brooks

November 12, 2020 

Above image of “March for Freedom” French march on behalf of Armenia and other “oppressed peoples” nations retrieved from social media. Fair use.

France’s diplomatic agency released a press statement on November 10 regarding its position in the Nagorno-Karabakh. France stated that it would require further analysis of the ceasefire’s parameters. Further assessments were announced to clarify the full scope of Russian-mitigation of the conflict’s formal forces ceasefire. France stressed that an end to hostilities is essential, but also took an approach that leaned heavily toward the Armenian interest in the region. France gave cultural and historical ties to Armenia as the reason for its position. 

“In these difficult times, France reaffirms all its friendship with the Armenian people, given the proximity of the human, cultural, and historical ties that bind us to Armenia. We are at his side in this dramatic context. In particular, we will ensure that we provide it with all the humanitarian support it needs. The situation on the ground, with displaced populations and fighting in urban centers, has indeed had significant humanitarian consequences. France has mobilized in recent weeks, through the very numerous initiatives of civil society. 

The French authorities are contributing to this, with medical aid which arrived at the end of last week in Yerevan, with teams of surgeons specialized in victims linked to conflicts,” wrote France Diplomacy, as translated from French. 

The French one-track approach to the regional instability and tense relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan has proven a challenge to the Minsk Group’s integrity. The OSCE Minsk Group, composed of the United States, France, and Russia, has been the diplomatic foreign presence attempting to mediate the regional tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan since the First Karabakh War in 1988-1994 era. 

France has made a statement via its diplomatic agency that pledges commitment to discussions beyond the ceasefire agreement. 

“Finally, the relaunch of negotiations between the parties on a lasting settlement of the conflict remains necessary, beyond the ceasefire agreement announced yesterday. France will play its full role in the framework of the co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk group. Discussions between the two parties must resume without delay. In particular, they should allow the return of the people displaced in the conflict in recent weeks and the definition of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh,” wrote France Diplomacy. 

Voice of America news network has reported the French position on Armenia as driven by the voice of its domestic politics. The country has a strong presence of the Armenian diaspora that has been vocal regarding the escalations of conflict in the region since September 27, calling on France to abandon neutrality and side with Armenia. VOA stated that this position of taking sides has led to an increase in tensions between France and Turkey. Turkey is considered a brother nation of Azerbaijan because Azerbaijani is a Turkic majority ethnic group. 

 

Azerbaijan contests the French position on Armenian politics. MenaFN reported that the Azerbaijani presidential aide Hikmet Hajiyev has called out the French government for “unilateral, biased appeals” on the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh, before its return to Azerbaijani sovereignty. This was reported on November 11. 

“Despite the fact that France, in accordance with its mandate, must act as a neutral party, it openly pursues the pro-Armenian policy and voices completely unfounded accusations against Azerbaijan,” said Hajiyev, as he was quoted by AzerNews, MenaFN. 

Throughout the most recent conflict, France and Turkey have likewise come to tense terms over what Turkey believed was a provocative bias of the French government toward Armenian rhetoric for the region. This was in part because a French politician showed a map indicating that eastern Turkey was part of Armenia, as was posted in the Turkish news and commentary site Daily Sabah. The map was shared by the French Republican Laurent Wauqiez via his Twitter. The same map had also included Nakhchivan and Nagorno Karabakh as part of Armenia when both regions belonged to Azerbaijan’s western region. 

The evidence bias of France to Armenia appears to stem from the rivalry between France and Turkey. The rivalry has been brewing over perceived insults and anticipated military contracting. TASS Russian News Agency stated that Turkish leader Erdogan had claimed that France, along with the U.S. and Russia, were supplying Armenia with weapons. Erdogan has likewise been a vocal critic of the Minsk Group, of which France is a seated member. 

The French-Turkish “spat” as Deutsche-Welle called it is a matter of international concern, and the bias toward Armenia is a potential catalyzing agent of it. Commentary from Deutsche Welle stated that the spat between the two nations could “widen the civilization divide.” The civilization divide referenced here is the divide between the western secular world and the Islamic world. Erdogan has been a heated critic of France for its stances against Islamic extremism. Members of the Islamic society leadership have perceived a stance against Islamic-related extremism to be a stance against Islam in general. 

In the Azerbaijani community, as was reflected by the news and commentary site Report.az,  criticism of France called the OSCE Minsk co-chair nation “the most prominent patron” of the Armenians. The criticism of this commentary was scathing, calling Macron out on not appearing familiar with the geographic realities of Nagorno-Karabakh despite being a co-chair occupant of the Minsk group. The commentary also alleged that Macron was leveraging the Armenian-lobby of France to secure a relection in April 2022. 

Other European news outlets, such as Euracity, noted that France assembles in “mass support” for Armenian causes. This was made evident on October 25 when thousands of people, including French elected officials, marched in Paris to show their support of Armenians who had illegally occupied the Nagorno-Karabakh region. The rhetoric of this march explicitly accussed Azerbaijan of “the will to massacre” Armenians, despite the fact that Azerbaijan was not the instigator or aggressor of the 2020 era conflict. French citizens had, as of October 25, called on Macron to recognize Artsakh as a legitimate government entity. The region of Nagorno-Karabakh was successfully returned to Azerbaijani sovereignty in the past few days, becoming part of sovereign Azerbaijan once again.

Strain between France and Turkey, as well as continued tensions and western biases in the post-conflict normalization process of the Armenia and Azerbaijan war, will raise further questions for the future of the Minsk group’s validity.