Wednesday, February 21, 2024

France laying ground for new regional war by arming Armenia: Azerbaijan

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev accused France on Tuesday of creating conditions for a new war in the South Caucasus by supplying weapons to Armenia.

Aliyev used a speech at a conference on decolonisation in Baku to deliver a scathing broadside against France, which announced last month it had agreed new contracts to supply military equipment to Armenia.

“France destabilises not only its past and present colonies but also our region, the South Caucasus, by supporting separatist tendencies and separatists,” Aliyev said.

“By arming Armenia, it implements a militaristic policy, encourages revanchist forces in Armenia, and prepares the ground for the start of new wars in our region,” he added.

In response, a French diplomatic source stated Paris, with European and U.S partners, was working towards a just and durable peace in the southern Caucasus, based on the principles of respect for sovereignty and borders.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars in the past three decades but Aliyev scored a major victory in September by recapturing the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, where ethnic Armenians had enjoyed de facto independence since the early 1990s. More than 100,000 of them have since fled to Armenia.

Azerbaijan is now in a strong position to secure an advantageous peace deal with Armenia and has taken an increasingly tough line towards Western countries, especially France and the United States, which have large ethnic Armenian communities and have been sympathetic towards Yerevan.

A French diplomatic source said last week that France had asked Baku for clarification after its cyber defence unit uncovered a campaign emanating from Azerbaijan that aimed to undermine Paris’ capacity to hold next year’s Olympic Games.

Highlighting the deterioration of relations, Aliyev stressed in Tuesday’s speech that France was responsible for “most of the bloody crimes in the colonial history of humanity”.

Armenian officials announced that neither the country’s foreign minister nor its defence minister would attend a meeting of a Moscow-led group of six former Soviet states on Wednesday in the Belarusian capital, Minsk. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan had already said he would not attend.

Armenia is a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) and hosts Russian soldiers on its territory, but has openly questioned the usefulness of the organisation in view of Azerbaijan’s advances, prompting criticism from Moscow.

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