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President Macron’s Comments on Armenia-Azerbaijan Conflict Trigger Backlash from Baku

By Ilham Karimli October 17, 2022

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President Ilham Aliyev attended the meeting of the Commonwealth of Independent States' council of heads of state in Astana, Kazakhstan, October 14, 2022 / President.Az

President Ilham Aliyev criticized remarks made by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, who last week accused Azerbaijan of “aggression” in the most recent and previous Armenia-Azerbaijan hostilities.

According to President Aliyev, the statements of the French president were insulting, unacceptable, false and provocative.

“In these statements, he accused Azerbaijan of engaging in a horrific war, thereby manipulating the facts, trying to mislead the French and world public. Azerbaijan waged war on its internationally recognized territory,” the Azerbaijani president said at the summit of the Heads of State Council of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), according to his press service. “Karabakh is recognized by the whole world as a part of Azerbaijan. We exercised our right to self-defense and restored our territorial integrity by force.”

“We categorically condemn and reject such statements and, given such an attitude of the French government, see no further possibility for France to play a role in the normalization of Azerbaijan-Armenia relations.”

In an interview with a local TV channel last week, Emmanuel Macron said Azerbaijan had launched "a terrible war" in 2020 to retake the Karabakh region, as well as triggered "offensives" in mid-September on the Armenia-Azerbaijan state border.

Armenia and Azerbaijan had been locked in one of the world’s most protracted conflicts for nearly three decades. Following the Soviet Union’s dissolution in 1991, Armenia launched a full-blown military campaign against Azerbaijan, marking the longest and deadliest war in the South Caucasus region. The bloody war lasted until a ceasefire in 1994 and saw Armenia occupying 20 percent of Azerbaijan’s internationally recognized territories. Over 30,000 Azerbaijanis were killed, and one million were expelled from those lands in a brutal ethnic cleansing policy conducted by Armenia.

On September 27, 2020, the decades-old conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan took a violent turn after Armenia’s forces deployed in the occupied Azerbaijani lands shelled military positions and civilian settlements of Azerbaijan. During the counter-attack operations that lasted 44 days, Azerbaijani forces liberated over 300 settlements, including the cities of Jabrayil, Fuzuli, Zangilan, Gubadli, and Shusha, from nearly 30-year-long illegal Armenian occupation. The war ended in a tripartite statement signed on November 10, 2020, by Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Russia. Under the statement, Armenia also returned the occupied Aghdam, Kalbajar, and Lachin districts to Azerbaijan.

Meanwhile, the border incident on September 12 was the largest hostilities fueled by Armenia since the end of the 2020 war. The large-scale provocation led to short but bloody clashes, leaving dozens dead on both sides. The Azerbaijani army lost 80 servicemen while suppressing the Armenian offensive.

President Aliyev said Macron’s remark were aimed at misleading public opinion in France and around the world. The comments came just a week after a meeting in Prague on October 6, where Macron was allowed to participate as a sign of Azerbaijan’s goodwill.

“Despite the fact that Azerbaijan agreed to the four-sided meeting [in Prague], including the participation of the President of France, although France has nothing to do with the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia – as a co-chair of the Minsk Group, France did have a mandate for mediation, but since the Karabakh conflict has been resolved and there is no need for the services of the Minsk Group, especially since this was rather a disservice, as I said, and the Minsk Group had done nothing at all, not a single centimeter of our territory was vacated – Azerbaijan showed goodwill nonetheless and allowed the French President to participate in this meeting,” President Aliyev said, adding that the current French leadership has crossed out quite balanced and friendly relations of Azerbaijan with previous administrations of the country.

Meanwhile, German scientist Michael Reinhard Hess decried Macron's remarks as obviously far from logic.

"Because on the one hand, you describe France as a "part of the mediating forces", and on the other hand, you enthusiastically, emotionally and effectively emphasize that France supports Armenia and "will not abandon" it. I do not understand how any state or politician can take the side of one of the parties to the conflict when they should be neutral by participating in 'mediation' efforts," he said, according to the Diaspora Organisation of Azerbaijan.

During Armenia's occupation of Azerbaijan's Karabakh region, France served as one of three countries chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, a mediation structure tasked with fetching a peaceful end to the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict. The Group’s shuttle diplomacy failed to deliver on its commitments over nearly 30 years. In addition, despite the Minsk Group’s charter calling for a neutral position in the negotiation process under the chairmanship mandate, France took Armenia's side during the 44-day war between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan from September 27 through November 9. President Emmanuel Macron voiced solidarity with Armenia on the fourth day of the fighting on September 30. The French government, French towns, and aid groups have then spared no effort to help Armenia. French cargo flights delivered medical supplies and other assistance tools to Yerevan shortly after the end of hostilities.

Following the same war, the French Senate and lower house of the French parliament adopted resolutions to push the government to green-light the recognition of the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh” although even Armenia itself rejected to recognize this illegal separatist regime in the Azerbaijani lands. The resolution served as a recommendation and had no mandatory power.

The French Senate is said to have been preparing a similar resolution which will reportedly be put for discussion sometime in mid-November.