Where will Azerbaijani expansionism in the Caucasus stop? After carrying out an attack in Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to the departure of almost the entire population of the enclave, Baku is now eyeing southern Armenia. Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliev and his Turkish ally Recep Tayyip Erdogan are accused of wanting to link Central Asia and Turkey by taking over a new part of Armenian territory. Azerbaijani military incursions have been noted in Armenian regions, assures a French diplomatic source.
Returning from kyiv, where an informal meeting of EU foreign ministers was held, Catherine Colonna is scheduled to make a stop in Yerevan this Tuesday, October 3. The head of French diplomacy will reaffirm France’s support and its attachment to the territorial integrity of Armenia. A strong gesture but insufficient to thwart Azerbaijani plans, according to Hovhannès Guevorkian, representative of Nagorno-Karabakh in France. Interview.
Point : Visit by Minister Catherine Colonna this Tuesday, October 3 to Yerevan, convening of the UN Security Council at the end of September… France is increasing its actions in favor of Armenia. Does this seem sufficient to you?
Hovhannès Guevorkian : I would first like to express my gratitude to the French political leaders, the presidents of local authorities, the regional presidents, the mayors and the many intellectuals who expressed their solidarity with the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. As early as 2020, the Senate and then the National Assembly committed to the need to recognize the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. I have just come out of Paris town hall, where a wish was adopted to grant honorary citizenship to the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh. Paris remains the capital of human rights. But all these signs of attention and friendship were unfortunately not enough. They did not prevent Azerbaijan from going on the attack.
What more can she do?
This ethnic cleansing, predicted by several people, should have been prevented. Former ICC prosecutor, Mr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, sounded the alarm on the genocidal process in Nagorno-Karabakh. He was not listened to. The international community must now clearly name what happened. We must give a legal and political qualification to these actions. We cannot ignore this crime. The Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh are dispossessed of everything, their land, their heritage. It is important to qualify these acts and identify the culprits, who thought about and implemented this ethnic cleansing. This territory is almost emptied of its population: 102,000 people have been forced to take the path of exile. There are between 1,000 and 5,000 Armenians left there, mainly people with reduced mobility. For them, the blockade continues because the Lachin corridor is still blocked. They don’t get anything.
Should Catherine Colonna officially use the term ethnic cleansing?
We have observed: diplomacy does not work with Azerbaijan. In Yerevan, the minister will meet refugees. They will be able to testify directly. Catherine Colonna must hear these refugees to get an idea of the horror they have experienced over the past ten months. Because before being chased out by armed forces, they experienced famine due to the blockade. This kind of behavior doesn’t happen every day. This is not a detail of the story. The French minister must make up her mind, then use the terms that seem appropriate to her. A crime has been committed, it must be given a name. For justice, for those affected, for the protection of all other threatened peoples: call this crime, Ms. Colonna!
Many countries remain indifferent to the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Can France take the lead in an international mobilization?
Yes, and for several reasons. France co-chaired the Minsk group created in 1992 by the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) [Les États-Unis et la Russie étaient également coprésidents du groupe de Minsk, NDLR]. For thirty years, France sought to resolve this conflict peacefully. She therefore bears a form of responsibility today. On the other hand, there is little hope regarding Russia. It had guaranteed the ceasefire, but when Azerbaijan went on the attack, its interposition forces did not act. As for the United States, it is committed to the UN Security Council while remaining very cautious. Azerbaijan borders Iran. Washington is perhaps careful not to belittle Azerbaijan so as not to play into Iran’s hands. This geopolitical calculation has the consequence of giving Azerbaijan a free hand. This is why France should take leadership in the defense of Armenians and ensure that this crime does not go unpunished.
The European Union sent an observation mission to Jermuk, in southern Armenia. Enough to dissuade Aliev from attacking the region?
This is far from enough. This mission is composed only of observers. For the sake of diplomacy, they do not make their reports public. However, we would like them to say out loud what they see on site. Part of the territory of the Republic of Armenia is already occupied by Azerbaijani soldiers. Armenian sovereignty is already violated! The territorial integrity of Armenia is not just the capital, 98 km2 are occupied by Azerbaijan in the Jermuk region. If we really want to defend “Armenian territorial integrity”, we must start there!
Historical support of Armenia, has Russia become an active ally of Azerbaijan?
Turkey is an active supporter of Azerbaijan. It arms the country, its generals prepare attacks… Russia is not there yet. It is a strategic partner of Baku, it maintains close economic ties, particularly in the field of hydrocarbons. Everyone says that it is Russian gas which arrives in Europe via Azerbaijan. Russia did not participate in the attack on Nagorno-Karabakh, it simply let it happen.
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