Francophonie summit in Yerevan: official Paris` historic mistake and "fellow countrymen" of Frenchman

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Baku, 16 October 2018 –

Superpowers pursue independent policies, and every independent country absolutely realizes this. But pursuing an independent policy does not mean that you have to be unjust or biased. But if this "independent policy'' is aimed at supporting an aggressor or injustice, then it is very dangerous and poses threat to the whole world. The International Organisation of La Francophonie`s (IOF) holding its 17th summit in Yerevan is not surprising. Armenia is famous for its unstable stance and frequent changes between different geopolitical poles. "Rusophobia'' or "Francophonie'' does not make much sense for Yerevan. The most important is that the speakers have pro-Armenian attitude. In this regard, the President of France stole the spotlight at the 17th Summit. The impact of his remarks on the global politics will manifest itself in a while. But we think it is necessary to take a close look at some of his views that related to the South Caucasus.

Azerbaijan-France relations: Baku`s courageous and constructive steps

Since declaring its independence Azerbaijan has been taking firm steps towards building high-level relations with France. With the national leader Heydar Aliyev`s return to the political scene by popular demand this process became more systematic, consistent and elaborate. Heydar Aliyev paid his first official visit as the president to Paris. He visited France on François Mitterrand`s invitation after being elected as the president on October 3, 1993. The national leader`s meetings in Paris were productive. France realized the necessity of developing relations with Azerbaijan.

President Ilham Aliyev, who is committed to the national leader`s political line, attaches special importance to relations with France. It is confirmed by the head of state`s visits to France and the programs jointly implemented by the two countries. Ilham Aliyev too paid his first foreign visit to France (January, 2004) after being elected as the president.

As of 2016, there were more than 40 French companies in Azerbaijan. But it is not naturally the limit because President Ilham Aliyev continues taking steps towards expanding relations with France. This summer alone saw the signing – during President Ilham Aliyev`s visit to France – of contracts with French companies that will attract two billion dollars of investment.

Commenting on this, the President of Azerbaijan said: "The Azerbaijani and French companies signed contracts worth more than two billion dollars. If these contracts are realized, the size of investment will grow. Energy security issues were also discussed, the successful implementation of the Southern Gas Corridor project was emphasized. Cooperation in the oil and gas sector, infrastructure, transportation, space industry, air transport, metro construction, military and technical sector was also discussed.”

But what has been official Paris` policy towards Azerbaijan against this background? Unfortunately, we have to mention several negative points here. First of all, it should be noted that as an independent state Azerbaijan does not interfere with internal affairs of any country and does not pursue certain goals when building relations with others. Official Baku does not interfere with Paris` relationship with other states. However, Azerbaijan cannot neglect any behavior that can harm its state interests or sovereignty. The relationship with France is especially sensitive because this country is one of the three co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group. France has undertaken to mediate between Armenia and Azerbaijan to find a fair and peaceful solution to their conflict based on international law.

If something runs contrary to these conditions, nobody can prevent Azerbaijan from just retaliation because at stake will be its independence, territorial integrity and future as a sovereign state. What steps did France take from this point of view?

First of all, it should be noted that when the Co-ordination Council of Armenian organisations of France (CCAF) invited Emmanuel Macron to an event commemorating victims of the fabricated "Armenian genocide” this January, CCAF co-chairs Ara Toranyan and Murad Papazyan called on the French leader to criticize Turkey and visit Azerbaijan`s occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

French parliamentarians and mayors: illegal visits to the occupied lands

Several members of the French parliament and city mayors pay illegal visits to Nagorno-Karabakh. For example, member of a faction of the French Union For A Popular Movement party Guy Teissier visited Azerbaijan`s lands, which are under Armenia`s occupation, where he held meetings with representatives of the separatist regime. In addition, France-Nagorno-Karabakh friendship group was set up. French officials visit Azerbaijan`s Nagorno-Karabakh region, which has been under Armenian occupation for 25 years. No other country`s officials have done so.

Mayors of the French cities of Alfortville and Valence recently paid a visit to the Nagorno-Karabakh. This directly contributes to the encouragement of the interests of the separatist regime, which was established in the Azerbaijani lands by Armenia and its patrons. What also causes great regret in this context is that the murderers who committed bloody terror acts against Turks are heroized in France, streets and squares are named after them. France seems to have absolutely lost a sense of justice, democracy, human rights and objectivity.

In addition, a number of French cities and towns signed agreements with the Nagorno-Karabakh. According to information, French companies are engaged in business activities in Azerbaijan`s occupied territories. Two points are of particular importance against this background. The first is that despite France`s enthusiasm, Armenia, in fact, ignores official Paris. The second is that the Francophonie summit was held exactly in Armenia.

Former French ambassador to Armenia Henri Reynaud`s remarks are worth paying attention to. He says that the number of people learning French in Armenia decreased nowadays even in comparison to the Soviet period. Trade between Armenia and France never exceeded 100 million dollars and there is not any growth in the annual size of trade. On the contrary, it is decreasing. Although French mobile operator Orange entered the Armenian market, it was forced to sell its shares to a Russian company. Carrefour retailer failed to launch its business in Armenia after it was purchased by an Armenian businessman with close links to Russia. There is now a limited number of French stores in Armenia, and during his visit to France Nikol Pashinyan vowed to protect them. It is a typical Armenian approach to cooperation and friendship.

Macron`s "Armenophonie'': in search of policy and "fellow countrymen''

However, President Emmanuel Macron went to Yerevan for the Francophonie summit. In his address at the event, President Macron said he is happy to attend the 17th summit of the heads of Francophone states in Yerevan. Armenia is very dear to us. Armenians created French history, we can say that they are our half-fellow countrymen. Armenians are part of our history and a source of pride for us, said Emmanuel Macron.

But if the Armenians created the French history and if the Frenchmen and the Armenians are fellow countrymen, then why the Armenians established Armenia in the Caucasus? It is a fact that the Frenchmen are not from the Caucasus. Then the Armenians are not from the Caucasus either. So it means that certain forces deliberately founded a state for the Armenians in the South Caucasus in order to put regional nations face to face with evil. We would like to tell Mr Macron: "Mr President of France take your fellow countrymen away from this troubled region. You will do a big favor to the Caucasus nations!''

Emmanuel Macron went further to say that the Frenchmen have opened their hearts for the Armenians. The people of France, who love you very much, bind these two countries. We share our joy and grief. The Armenians are in the hearts of the Frenchmen, he said.

The French leader then said that France will never forget the Armenian genocide. This, in fact, was a clear manifestation of some key priorities of Paris` foreign policy. France affirmed its full support for Armenia on all issues. But a question arises: What gives this biased state the right to be a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group? In this logic, how come the Armenians and Europeans accuse Turkey of partiality? Turkey stands by the country that was subjected to aggression regardless of its ethnic or national identity. Ankara demands justice, it stands against discrimination.

But France openly affirmed its support for the aggressor. This aggressor is in the hearts of the Frenchmen, they are fellow countrymen. What can these double standards bring France as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council? Is official Paris a friend or an enemy for Azerbaijan?

These questions have now acquired topicality. And one of the reasons is that France is an important ally for Azerbaijan given its role and position in the European Union. France is one of the key members of the European Union together with Germany and Italy. Finally, Azerbaijan expects France to take resolute steps towards solving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In addition, France plays a leading role in the European economy and foreign policy. It should be taken into account that the European Union countries account for the half of Azerbaijan`s trade. The aforementioned facts prove that France is an important partner in this regard. 6.7 percent of the foreign investment made in Azerbaijan comes from France.

A discreet, constructive and patient Azerbaijan: everything has its limit

As we have already said official Baku is taking all this into consideration and is making consistent steps towards developing relations with France. And what it gets in response is the speech at the Francophonie summit and visits by a number of parliamentarians and mayors to the occupied lands…Comparison is obvious. In fact, France could have used its relations with Armenia for the sake of justice because if they enjoy historically close ties, then Paris could have explained to Yerevan that occupying the lands of others is injustice, crime and could have encouraged it to stop this aggression. France could have explained that what the Armenian leaders are doing runs contrary to international law.

In addition, France, as a member of the European Union should protect democracy and comply with provisions of the strategic partnership agreement signed with Azerbaijan.  Unfortunately, Paris is grossly violating these principles. First, the French parliament members are paying visits to the Nagorno-Karabakh. Mayors of some French cities are repeating this absurd step. By doing so France grossly violates the requirements set forth n the official documents of the UN, EU, PACE and other international organizations. This also runs contrary to the new EU-Azerbaijan agreement, which reaffirms respect for Azerbaijan`s territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.

Second, speaking at the international event, the French President clearly proved himself to be pro-Armenian. This runs contrary to the spirit of agreements signed with Azerbaijan on the one hand, and means that Paris is unable to remain unbiased as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group on the other hand. So may be France would better withdraw from co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group. But France is unlikely to intend doing it.

There is also one interesting geo-political point. By holding the Francophonie summit in Yerevan, Armenia throws down the glove to Russia. Paris made it clear that it is going to take patronage of Armenia. President Macron has confirmed this at least two times. First of all, the French leader affirmed that he is the closest partner of Armenia. But who is Russia then? It was Russia that created the state called Armenia. How come France became its closest partner now? The Kremlin`s reaction will be of particular interest.

Second, President Macron indirectly emphasized the significance of the French language to Armenia. And this is happening against a background of the disappearance of the Russian language in Armenia. Russia has repeatedly expressed its discontent with the fact that the Russian language is ignored by the Armenian education system. But nothing changes. The Armenian leaders hosted a summit on the French language and culture instead. Yerevan, in fact, is changing the course from the "Russian world’ to the French one.

Azerbaijan`s attitude is quite different. Baku is developing its close relations with France, and at the same time is maintaining excellent relations with Russian in all areas. There are no barriers to the development of the Russian language in Azerbaijan. The role of Russian in Azerbaijan`s education system is continuously growing. The Russian culture was and is widespread in Azerbaijan, and nothing can change this.

But the problem is that while Azerbaijan maintains frank and friendly relations with these countries, Paris does not take a constructive stance even in the face of Yerevan`s unfounded and egoist claims, and overtly and covertly supports the aggressor and supplies it with arms. It looks like Azerbaijan needs to draw certain conclusions. Anyway, what is obvious is that France`s attitude is not just and impartial.

It is nothing but disrespect for international law, democratic values and human rights and freedoms, and runs absolutely contrary to the spirit of friendship in inter-governmental relations. Azerbaijan is building its foreign policy on the principles of equal cooperation, mutual confidence, respect for international law and non-interference with internal affairs. These principles make the cornerstone of Azerbaijan`s relations of cooperation and partnership with all countries, including France.

Official Baku is pursuing a well-balanced and logical policy. This policy is being pursued based on national interests in accordance with international law. The country`s leadership always choses the best and most appropriate stance, which has been repeatedly confirmed. Azerbaijan`s policy does not aim to spoil its relations with superpowers, the country is doing its utmost for the sake of cooperation and mutual benefit. But does not the opposite side need to take a rational approach sometimes?

The geo-political situation in the South Caucasus is another source of concern. Everybody recognizes that the region is extremely volatile against a backdrop of Armenia`s non-constructive and aggressive policy, deepening confrontation between Iran and the West and emerging terror threats. Under such circumstances, each country in the South Caucasus should pursue a soft, just and impartial policy and should encourage cooperation. There should not be partiality here. But unfortunately, such an experienced country as France is taking steps that run completely contrary to this spirit and do not contribute to stability and peace in the South Caucasus.

The reason is that the French leadership openly affirmed its support for the aggressor. Will Armenia fulfill the resolutions of the UN Security Council under these circumstances? Will it implement the EU resolutions? France is discrediting the documents that it is itself is signatory to. And if these documents are just a piece of paper for Paris, then for the aggressive, mentally disabled Armenian leadership, which has taken a non-constructive position, these documents are not even a piece of paper.

We therefore think that Emmanuel Macron`s speech at the 17th summit of the International Organisation of La Francophonie in Yerevan is the most unsuccessful experience of his political career. Because that speech featured the points that could harm not only Azerbaijan, but the global politics, France`s interests and the future of the European Union. Time will undoubtedly confirm this. And it would be interesting to look at the French leaders then.

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