Azerbaijan planned and organized the exodus of more than 100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, France’s Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said during a question and answer session in the French Senate on Wednesday.
“No matter how it tries to portray the situation, yes, Azerbaijan planned and organized the exodus of more than 100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh. This is a crime that cannot go unpunished,” the French foreign minister said.
Colonna said France will demand the adoption of a resolution within the framework of the UN Security Council that will create conditions for the return of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians.
She stressed the need to protect the historical and cultural rights of the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh and insisted on permanent international presence in the region.
“We are convinced that the issues between Armenia and Azerbaijan can be resolved only through the negotiations and a just and lasting peace. That is the reason why France supports the mediation efforts of the European Union, demanding that no concessions be made in the issues of international law, Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Colonna said.
“Simultaneously, we should continue to support Armenia, as have, and ensure that Azerbaijan does not resort to use of force. There is no alternative to guaranteeing peace for the benefit of all the citizens of the South Caucasus,” added the French foreign minister.
Baku was quick to react to Colonna’s remarks, saying that statements suggesting that Azerbaijan planned the exodus of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh demonstrates that “France is only interested in continuing its insidious and contrived policy, contrary to the opinion of international organizations and even Armenia,” said a statement by Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry on Wednesday, referencing Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan remarks on September 21, when he said he believed that Armenians in Artsakh could safely co-exist with Azerbaijanis.
Baku “once again reminds France using the language of threats and pressure in it discourse with Azerbaijan will not yield any results, and such destructive actions must be stopped immediately. All actions against the sovereignty and territorial integrity will resolutely be countered,” Azerbaijan said.
During a visit to Armenia last week, Colonna said Armenia needed to be able to defend itself two weeks after Azerbaijani forces invaded Nagorno-Karabakh despite the presence of Russian peacekeepers.
She said Paris has agreed to deliver military equipment to Armenia.
After visiting displaced Artsakh residents, including burn patients injured in a Stepanakert fuel depot station explosion, the minister pledged military support.
“I would like to publicly state that France has agreed on future contracts with Armenia which will allow the delivery of military equipment to Armenia so that it can ensure its defense. You’ll understand that I can’t go into more detail at the moment,” Colonna said.
Colonna’s pledge of military support to Armenia further angered Baku with President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan complaining to European Council President Charles Michel last week about what he called the “anti-Azerbaijan” posturing by Paris and the EU.
Aliyev claimed that such a pledge from France will complicate peace efforts in the region.