French Senate demands withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from Armenia

French Senate building (Facebook)

The French Senate adopted a near unanimous resolution on November 15 to demand the withdrawal of Azerbaijani soldiers from Armenia and apply sanctions against Azerbaijan. 

The resolution, which was adopted with 295 votes to one, condemned the “repeated aggressions of the Azerbaijani military forces” in Armenia and Artsakh as a violation of Armenia’s sovereignty and of ceasefire agreements between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

It calls for the “immediate and unconditional withdrawal, to their initial positions, of the Azeri forces and their allies from the sovereign territory of Armenia and the Lachin corridor.” 

The resolution, which is non-binding, references the large-scale attacks launched by Azerbaijan along Armenia’s eastern border from September 13-14. Following the attacks, Azerbaijani soldiers captured territory within Armenia’s international borders. The resolution also mentions attacks along the Lachin corridor connecting Armenia and Artsakh in early August. 

The French Senate also called on the French government and other European countries to consider the “seizure of the assets of Azerbaijani leaders and an embargo on imports of gas and oil from Azerbaijan.” 

The resolution “reaffirms the need to recognize the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh and to make this recognition an instrument of negotiations with a view to establishing a lasting peace,” considering that “the security and freedoms of the Armenian populations living in Nagorno-Karabakh are not guaranteed by the Republic of Azerbaijan.” The French Senate previously adopted a resolution following the end of the 2020 Artsakh War calling on the French government to recognize Artsakh. 

The resolution was welcomed by the Artsakh Foreign Ministry as an “important step in political, legal and moral terms, since Azerbaijan’s expansionist and belligerent policy is a serious challenge and threat not only to the Armenian people and Armenian statehood, but also to regional stability and the entire civilized world.”

“We express our gratitude to our friends in France for displaying an unambiguous and principled stance,” the Artsakh Foreign Ministry said

The resolution was denounced, however, by Azerbaijani authorities. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said it “clearly demonstrates the biased and one-sided political position of France.”

“The resolution is completely far from the truth, contains false and slanderous provisions, and serves to undermine the process of normalization of relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, having the character of open provocation,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said

In a lengthy statement, the Azerbaijani parliament called on the government of Azerbaijan to prohibit France from participating in negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan “until a guarantee of neutrality is given by the French government.” The parliament also called on the government to bar French companies from participating in Azerbaijani state projects and to review cooperation between France and Azerbaijan in the energy sector. 

A fact-finding mission led by Armenia’s former Human Rights Defender Arman Tatoyan found that Azerbaijani soldiers have been constructing “military roads, positions, bunkers, buildings” in the territories captured in mid-September. The city of Jermuk in the Vayots Dzor province and its pastures, water reservoirs and hydro power plant are all under direct target. 

Jermuk hydro power plant (Facebook)

Armenian officials say the village of Nerkin Hand in the Syunik province has been emptied of civilians. Its school and public transportation are no longer functional, and its water sources are under the control of Azerbaijani forces. 

“Our primary goal should be to remove the Azerbaijani armed services not only from our occupied territories, but also from the settlements situated near our villages and roads after the war of 2020,” Tatoyan said

Azerbaijani armed forces hold advantageous positions within Armenia, such as on the mountainous heights near Jermuk, from which to launch new attacks and shut down critical Armenian highways, Senior South Caucasus analyst for the International Crisis Group Olesya Vartanyan said during an episode of the Crisis Group’s War & Peace podcast. Military experts from Armenia and the West told Vartanyan that it would take Azerbaijan “just a couple of days” to take over the Goris-Kapan road, which would “effectively cut the south of Armenia from the rest of the country.” 

Meanwhile, attacks on Armenian civilians in Artsakh by Azerbaijani armed forces are ongoing. On November 12, a civilian was injured while working in their fields in the Khramort village of the Askeran region of Artsakh following a targeted shooting by Azerbaijani soldiers that also damaged their tractor. Another civilian’s tractor was damaged in a similar shooting on November 5.  

“I call this a strategy of creeping ethnic cleansing,” Yerevan-based analyst Tigran Grigoryan said in response to the incident. “Baku has nice talking points for the international community, but this is the actual policy on the ground. Don’t get fooled by the Aliyev regime’s fairy tales about minority rights and integration.” 

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan also criticized the shooting. He said that three civilians have been killed and 16 wounded in Artsakh by Azerbaijani forces since the end of the war in 2020.

Azerbaijan calls Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh ‘our citizens’ and, at the same time, shoots at them while they’re doing agricultural work,” Pashinyan tweeted. “Is this the implementation of Azerbaijan’s narrative saying ‘Nagorno-Karabakh issue is solved’?” 

Pashinyan said that Azerbaijan is preparing for the genocide of the Armenian population of Artsakh during a weekly cabinet meeting on November 10.

He referenced Azerbaijan’s refusal to permit the entry of international actors including representatives from the United Nations into Artsakh, its efforts to shut down the Lachin Corridor and isolate Artsakh, and its demand that all Armenian forces leave Artsakh as evidence that Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev “not only threatens, but is already preparing the genocide of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.” 

Pashinyan said that the Republic of Armenia does not have any soldiers in Artsakh, and that Azerbaijan rejected an offer made by Armenia to send an observer mission to Artsakh to clarify this. 

There is no army of Armenia in Nagorno-Karabakh. There is the Defense Army of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is perhaps a serious obstacle to implementing the genocidal policy,” Pashinyan said. “My perception is that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh have an army only because of the danger of being subjected to genocide.”

Pashinyan proposed creating a demilitarized zone around Artsakh with international guarantees, “as a result of which Nagorno-Karabakh may not need a defense army of such a scale.”

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian

Lillian Avedian is a staff writer for the Armenian Weekly. Her writing has also been published in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Hetq and the Daily Californian. She is pursuing master’s degrees in journalism and Near Eastern Studies at New York University. A human rights journalist and feminist poet, Lillian's first poetry collection Journey to Tatev was released with Girls on Key Press in spring of 2021.
Lillian Avedian

@LillianAvedian

Graduate student @GloJo_NYU and @nyukevo. Staff writer @armenianweekly. Editorial intern @DAWN_Journal.
Thank you @nyukevo! https://t.co/rObY5oUAbX - 2 weeks ago
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