France vs. Baku and Ankara in the Caucasus

2023/11/25 | interview, political, top news

Strategic Council Online - Interview: An international relations university professor stated that Paris is trying not to allow the situation in the Caucasus to progress as desired by the Republic of Azerbaijan and Turkey and hopes the situation can be shaped as much as possible in line with French interests through military assistance, adding: France, after Russia, is the second largest foreign investor in Armenia since 2016. This country is trying to create a rift between Armenia and Russia by strengthening ties with Armenia. France’s military support to Armenia is an important and new development that we are witnessing after the weakening of Russia’s position in Armenia.

In an interview with the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations website, Dr. Mahmoud Shouri referred to Armenia’s announcement of readiness to sign a peace agreement with the Republic of Azerbaijan before the end of the year. He stated that changes in the direction of Armenia’s foreign policy have influenced relations between that country and Russia since 2018 and when Pashinyan came to power. The Armenians hoped that with this change of attitude and getting closer to the West, they would improve the conditions for themselves, at least economically, but what happened to Armenia in those years was Russia’s distance from that country and the decrease of Moscow’s desire to guarantee Armenia’s security.

Recalling that even Russia in recent years did not want to continue seizing the areas that Armenia had occupied in the 1990s and suggested that at least part of those areas be returned to Azerbaijan in order to form a peace treaty, he added: On the one hand, the Armenians made changes in their internal and external attitudes, and on the other hand, militarily, the balance in the region was gradually changing in favor of Azerbaijan. Due to the military capabilities it had created, Baku was able to take back the areas occupied by Armenians in the 2020 war and change the military equation in its favor. The Russians also did not show a strong reaction, and due to the conflict in the war with Ukraine, their power declined even more.

Stating that the situation in the Caucasus has now changed in favor of Azerbaijan, the university professor continued: Armenia is forced to go to other countries to ensure its security, and obviously, by strengthening the relations it has historically had with France, it tries to strengthen its military power by increasing purchases and attracting military aid, and in this balance, upgrades its position against Azerbaijan.

Shouri pointed to Yerevan’s emphasis on the necessity of signing a peace treaty with Baku with the aim of stabilizing peace in the region and said: By advancing the peace agreement, Armenia is trying to move Azerbaijan to a direction where it recognizes the current situation of Armenia and no longer has any territorial claims against it, and Baku also takes a two-sided position in this regard.

He pointed out that although Azerbaijan agrees to sign the peace agreement in principle, in practice, it still hopes that, considering the superiority of the military that it has gained in recent years and some existing foreign support that it has for itself, in contrast to the support that is promised to Armenia, it should use this capacity that it has created for itself and the ambitious goals that it has in the region, including, and at the very least, its territorial claims to several Armenian villages.

Shouri stated that this situation could cause tension and change in the Caucasus region in the future, and said: Although France has now provided military support to Armenia, it is unlikely that this support can change the balance in Armenia’s favor. France is trying to convince the Armenians somehow that instead of relying on Russia and Iran, they should look towards Europe and France to ensure their security, and France is the only one that can provide clear military support to Armenia. Besides, in the past weeks, France had rejected the possibility of military intervention to defend Armenia in the Caucasus region and against the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The researcher of developments in Russia and the Caucasus stated that Paris opened a defense office in Armenia to meet the defense and security needs of Armenia, is in daily contact with the army and the authorities of that country, and is preparing to arm Armenia, considered Azerbaijan’s all-out military measure against Armenia unlikely and continued: However, Paris is interested in not allowing the situation to progress as desired by Azerbaijan and Turkey, and is trying to shape the conditions as much as possible in line with its interests with military aid. It has even asked the EU’s foreign policy chief to include Armenia in the European Peace Facility, an EU military aid fund.

Pointing to the important role of the Armenians living in France, Shouri said that the Armenians are a significant part of French society and reminded: Previously, in November 2020, the French Senate voted in favor of imposing sanctions on Azerbaijan and recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent republic, and also demanded the withdrawal of forces of Azerbaijan from the disputed territory. In addition, Paris has sent 12.5 million euros of humanitarian aid to Armenia and plans to open a consulate in Syunik Province to support Armenia.

He called the type of relations between France and Turkey and its support to Greece effective in France’s support policy for Armenia. He added that France is the second largest foreign investor in Armenia after Russia since 2016. That country is trying to create a rift between Armenia and Russia by strengthening ties with Armenia. In this regard, France’s military support to Armenia is an important and new development that we are witnessing after the weakening of Russia’s position in Armenia.

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