The files we follow: Karabakh Situation; Abkhazia and South Ossetia / Georgia Conflict; Georgia – EU/ US/Russia/Ukraine Relations and Georgian Domestic Policy, South Caucasian energy, trade and transport issues, Human Rights in South Caucasus, Various foreign policies Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reaffirmed his agreement for the opening of transport routes between most of Azerbaijani territory and its exclave of Nakhichevan on 17 January but by posing one condition: that this be done under the same conditions as for the portion passing through Iranian territory, that is to say with the possibility for the Armenian authorities of inspection during transit. It should be noted that images have been released concerning the progress of construction work on the highway connecting most of Azerbaijani territory to its exclave of Nakhichevan via Iran: an automobile bridge 374 meters long and 27, 6 meters wide on the Araz River. i.e. 4 lanes, 2 safety lanes, and pedestrian sidewalks in both directions.
For Ilham Aliev, as expressed on 10 January, the “Peace Crossroads” project proposed by Armenia against the “Zanguezur Corridor” project that Azerbaijan supports is only a “public relations campaign” . He also insisted that “the corridor does not call into question the sovereignty of any country” but that “goods, citizens and vehicles going from Azerbaijan to Azerbaijan [must] circulate freely there without passing through any control” even though “all customs duties [had] to be paid.” Furthermore, he also supports the presence of Russian border guards.
Sergei Lavrov explicitly and unsurprisingly placed the responsibility for this Armenian position on the “Westerners” [denying Armenia its free will in the matter] on 18 January at a press conference, in these terms: “We are well aware that “good” advice from Western friends is still present in the South Caucasus. […] Everyone also knows that Western councils always aim to promote their geopolitical goals and not to find an agreement between the countries of the region based on a balance of their interests”. He denounced the intrusion of the European Union in several peace processes in the Caucasus, Transnistria and Ukraine. Furthermore, he wished to recall the terms of the agreement of 9 November 2020 and that of June 2023 between the deputy prime ministers giving priority to rail transport, namely that “the route crosses the sovereign territory of the Armenia under the control of the Russian FSB Border Service”. He thus reiterated that “it [had] been agreed [within the framework of the trilateral working group created in 2021] that, when all the connections and all the roads [would be] unblocked, the countries through which such a unblocked route passes [would] fully retain their sovereignty and jurisdiction over their territory.”
The French Senate, for its part, adopted a new resolution on 17 January (again with 336 votes for and 1 vote against) whose proposal had been tabled on 1st December. It condemns the military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh on 19 and 20 September, considers that the right of peoples to self-determination is “the only possible path to lasting peace“, reaffirms the inviolability of territorial integrity of Armenia, welcomes the decision of the French government to deliver military equipment, condemns the arrest of political leaders of the “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”, and calls for a complete re-examination of European Union relations with Azerbaijan including an embargo on gas and oil imports, and the suspension of Azerbaijan from the UNESCO intergovernmental committee for the preservation of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. The new French Minister of Foreign Affairs Stéphane Séjourné himself described this resolution as a “vital issue for Europe“, reaffirming France’s “unconditional, complete and constant” commitment alongside Armenia and announcing the increase of the staff of the EU civilian observation mission in Armenia, the launch of discussions for the granting of support under the European Peace Facility and the amplification of France’s action in the next months.
In response, the Azerbaijani Milli Majlis published the next day a hostile declaration against France on 18 January calling on its government to take several measures such as sanctions, freezing of assets, interruption of economic relations, expulsion of French companies including Total, rejection of French participation in projects initiated by the State and finally recognition of the independence of the Kanak, Maohi Nui and Corsican peoples. It should also be remembered that President Aliyev declared on 10 January : “the goal of arming Armenia is precisely to keep us under constant pressure. These are efforts to prevent us from living comfortably and, unfortunately, France is still on the front line. France is the country that arms Armenia, provides it with support, trains its soldiers and prepares them for another war. When I say that France’s policies are causing tensions in the Caucasus, that’s exactly what I meant.”
These events follow French accusations of Azerbaijani disinformation concerning the hosting of the Olympic Games, dating from the end of November, the arrest of a French national, Martin Ryan, on December 4, accused of espionage, and finally the mutual expulsion of diplomats at the end of December in both countries.
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