Cautious optimism in Azerbaijani-French relations: Baku’s point of view

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Interview of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev with French TV channel France 24 at the end of last month (September 28) highlighted the current and future prospects of bilateral relations between the two countries. At the same time, he sent a signal to Armenia, which has long claimed to have a much closer relationship with France (President.az, September 28).

In fact, Azerbaijani-French relations go back many years and have focused on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict as well as many other issues. While bilateral economic, trade and infrastructure projects are underway, arguably the most important work has been done in the area of ​​culture. Since 2007, with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation, joint efforts have included restoration work on several historic French sites, cultural exchanges and more than a dozen fraternity and friendship agreements between the cities of France. and Azerbaijan (Aliyevheritage.az, January 23, 2018).

Elnur Allahverdiyev, member of the Azerbaijani Parliamentary Committee on Economic Policy, Industry and Entrepreneurship, noted that his country’s aforementioned contribution to supporting French cultural sites demonstrated his commitment to defend the material and spiritual wealth of the world. as a civilized and peaceful state; and Azerbaijan awaits an adequate response in return. However, he laments, Paris has remained irrelevant in the face of the destruction and falsification of the material, cultural and historical heritage in the Azerbaijani territories which had been occupied by Armenia (Tendency, October 3, 2020). During a subsequent visit by members of the French National Assembly to the city of Agdam in Karabakh, these French lawmakers finally recognized this apparent disconnection. Jérôme Lambert said he was shocked to see the territories liberated: “We think that 30 years ago there was life and people lived here. But we hope that the displaced can return to their homes and that these areas will be fully restored ”(Tendency, July 23, 2021).

Azerbaijan is certainly aware of the long historical ties between France and Armenia, and understands the strength of the Armenian community living in France, which can influence French decision-makers to some extent (Milli.az, October 2). But in Baku’s view, this relatively close Franco-Armenian relationship undermined Paris’s responsibility to remain neutral as co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group on the resolution. of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Karabakh. Rather than maintaining an objective position, France has repeatedly demonstrated a unilateral approach, publicly blaming Azerbaijan in its public actions and statements (see EDM, November 25, December 1, 3, 7, 2020).

During the 44-day Karabakh war last year, members of the Azerbaijani parliament, political analysts and civil society institutions sharply criticized France for showing a pro-Armenian bias , which contradicted Paris’ mandate as a neutral arbiter within the OSCE Minsk Group. In addition, they criticized France for not using its position as a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council to put more pressure on Armenia to end its occupation of Azerbaijani territories. Azerbaijani parliamentarian Elman Nasirov, who sits on the Committee on International and Interparliamentary Relations, argued that Turkey should replace France as one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group in the process of settling the conflict. Karabakh. Alternatively, Pakistan (as a nuclear power like the other co-chairs of the Minsk Group) could get involved in the process (Tendency, September 30, 2021)

Nevertheless, speaking with France 24President Aliyev said Baku had received positive signals from Paris on future relations and would respond positively. Bilateral interactions had recently intensified at various levels, including contacts between their foreign ministers. And on September 7, French Ambassador to Azerbaijan Zacharie Gross wrote on Twitter that in 2021 France sent the International Committee of the Red Cross more than half a million euros in charitable donations. for his search for the nearly 4,000 Azerbaijanis still missing. of the first Karabakh war (1news.az, September 7). A day later, the French diplomat tweeted again, noting that Paris intended to donate 400,000 euros ($ 465,000) to Azerbaijan to carry out demining work in the Karabakh region (Qafqazinfo.az, September 8).

This cited demining assistance could increase. According to a memorandum to be signed between the French National Commission for the Elimination of Antipersonnel Mines and the Azerbaijani National Mine Action Agency, the Commission will allocate 500,000 euros ($ 581,000) in financial assistance for the implementation of implementation of these measures. The Secretary General of the French Commission underlined that, within the framework of the Ottawa Convention on the prohibition of mine action, which will be chaired by France in the European Union from 2022, a large work will be done to demine, and Azerbaijan will be strongly supported in this concerns. This cooperation could constitute a solid basis for opening a new stage in Azerbaijani-French relations (Tendency, October 15)

On September 16, 2021, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov and a delegation led by the Director of the Continental Europe Department of the French Foreign Ministry, Frédéric Mondoloni, discussed issues relating to regional security, the trilateral (Azerbaijan-Armenia-Russia agreements) which ended the second Karabakh war last year, as well as collaboration with international organizations. In addition, they shared ideas to strengthen Azerbaijani-French cooperation. Drawing attention to the illegal visit of some members of the French National Assembly to Azerbaijani territories not under Baku’s control, Bayramov warned that such measures undermine existing post-conflict peacekeeping efforts in the region. (Report.az, September 16).

In his September 28 France 24 interview, Aliyev said that with regard to Armenia, Azerbaijan is looking to the future and has repeatedly stated that it is ready to start a dialogue with the Yerevan government. Azerbaijan does not want a war, but it will firmly oppose any revenge in Armenia, the Azerbaijani president said (President.az, September 28). These political realities in the South Caucasus could finally galvanize outside powers to help ensure lasting peace. “France, along with Russia and the United States, is working on a new Karabakh agreement,” said Ann Luyo, new French ambassador to Yerevan. RFE / RL Armenian service earlier this month (Qafqazinfo.az, October 13).

At France 24, Aliyev said that Azerbaijan wants normal relations with France, one of the main countries in the world, and has always been open to maintaining cooperation. So, despite the heated emotions surrounding the Second Karabakh War, Baku is unlikely to dwell on the obnoxious rhetoric that came out of Paris during this time. The most important thing for Azerbaijan is to see proof that France sincerely wishes peace, stability and security for the South Caucasus region and that it supports with impartiality the continuous and fruitful negotiations between Armenia and France. ‘Azerbaijan. (President.az, September 28).


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