The triple instrumentalization of the Karabakh conflict at the last Francophonie Summit 2022

The International Organization of Francophonie was the scene of an interference in the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in the discussions of its last Summit meeting in Djerba in Tunisia on 19-20 November 2022. Armenia has, in fact, obtained the status of Associated State of the organization in 2008 during the Quebec Summit after having obtained the status of observer member in 2003 during the Ouagadougou summit and before becoming the 54th Member State in 2012 during the Kinshasa summit. It also hosted the Francophonie summit in Yerevan in 2018. Azerbaijan, a country in which French is the 3rd language taught, is not a member of the OIF, despite the presence of a Franco-Azerbaijani University, (UFAZ), a French high school in Baku, a French Institute, a Francophonie week each year in April and a number of speakers which should not be very different from that of its neighbour (0.3% of speakers in Armenia only according to the OIF).

But his Balkan Albanian ally is the one who joined the organization in 1999, and who reacted strongly to Armenian attempts to discredit his historical adversary from the South Caucasus region. Albania has, in fact, asked to come back to the paragraphs relating to Armenia appearing in the draft resolution on the crises of the Francophonie.

These paragraphs, which were welcomed by the Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, in his speech at the 43rd session of the Ministerial Forum of La Francophonie on 18 November, were the subject of a reaction from Azerbaijan who denounced a “provocative declaration full of distortions” and “unilateral, biased and distorted provocative provisions against Azerbaijan […] included with the direct support of France to the initial texts” while welcoming and expressing its gratitude concerning “the intervention of several Member States during the discussion of the draft documents” having allowed the deletion of provisions and formulations targeting Azerbaijan in the texts.

So what happened last November at this summit in Tunisia that Azerbaijan said: As part of the process of negotiations around the documents, additional political pressure and deterrence measures contrary to diplomatic practice were taken by France against the countries that opposed the unilateral, biased and distorted provisions against Azerbaijan” informing that “it [had] been reported that the draft document had been approved for submission to the Summit, ignoring objections, violating decision-making procedures and disregarding the positions of Member States”?

Some precedents concerning the French-speaking world and the Karabakh conflict…

Armenia has gradually forged strong ties with the organization. Since 1998 the city of Yerevan has become a member of the International Association of Francophone Mayors (AIMF). In 2009, Armenia joined the Regional Centre of Francophonie in Central and Eastern Europe (CREFECO) and the National Assembly of the Republic of Armenia became an associate member of the Parliamentary Assembly of Francophonie (APF). In 2013 she joined the Network of National Structures and Institutions in charge of Francophonie in Central and Eastern Europe (RESIFECO) created the same year and signed a memorandum of educational cooperation with the French Embassy in Armenia. It also hosted the 31st session of the Ministerial Conference of Francophonie in 2015 for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. The same year, she began to participate in the Union of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Francophone Institutions (UCESIF) and the Association of Ombudsman and Mediators of Francophonie (AOMF).

During the 13th Francophonie summit in Montreux, Switzerland in 2010, a resolution on “crisis situations, crisis resolution and peace-building in the French-speaking world” was taken by the Heads of State of Francophonie. who had already taken the following position on the conflict in question: “We affirm our full support for the efforts of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group towards the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. We call on all parties to the conflict to refrain from any attempt to resort to the threat or use of force which could jeopardize the future of the peace process; we invite them to continue negotiations on the basis of the principles proposed by the co-chairmen of the Minsk Group as the basis for a balanced and lasting solution to this conflict“, a position maintained at all subsequent Francophonie summits (Kinshasa, Dakar, Antananarivo and Yerevan).

We must also mention the numerous visits to Armenia, and sometimes even to the Karabakh enclave by the entire French political spectrum: by Valérie Pecresse on 22 December 2021 (in the presence of Michel Barnier and Bruno Retailleau), now persona non grata in Azerbaijan and then supported by Jean-Yves le Drian the French Minister of Foreign Affairs following Azerbaijani warnings, Eric Zemmour in the company of Philippe de Villiers on 14 and 15 December 2021 for, according to his words “defending a Christian land“, Laurent Wauquiez on 29 March, who met the “Foreign Minister of Nagorno-Karabakh” Sergeï Ghazarian, and declared that “an attack against Siounik would be equivalent to an attack against Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes“, and the support displayed by many personalities of the French left such as Anne Hidalgo who met the self-proclaimed “president of Nagorno-Karabakh” on 28 May 2022 resulting in a new summons from the French ambassador, or the PS mayor of Marseille Benoît Payan declaring on April 24: “We we are on their side [the Armenians] to fight today those who want to make them disappear again”. Moreover, the French presidential elections have almost all been marked for decades by an assiduous courting of candidates from the Armenian minority, despite the anti-communitarian speeches of the French political class when it comes to targeting French Muslims and then even that all the studies show that there is no Muslim vote in France. Emmanuel Macron even declared in March 2022 on the occasion of the conference “Ambitions: Armenia France” in Paris: “Many communities wanted, as we know, to be able to bring projects to Armenia, to Nagorno-Karabakh too. It was fully legitimate […] With this support fund, we are going to provide a stable framework, identified with, I would say, the full and complete support of the State, of the French diplomacy”.

We will also have noted the resolutions of the Senate and the French National Assembly at the end of 2020 asking for the recognition of the independence of “Nagorno-Karabakh” by the French State. On 9 November, a new French ambassador to Azerbaijan was appointed to replace Zacharie Gross, in the person of Anne Boillon. On 15 November, the Senate adopted by 295 votes for and 1 against a motion for a resolution aimed at applying sanctions against Azerbaijan and demanding its “immediate withdrawal from Armenian territory” and reaffirming 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“. On 30 November 2022, the French National Assembly unanimously adopted (by 256 votes for and 0 against) resolution no. 37aiming to demand an end to Azerbaijan’s aggression against against Armenia and to establish a lasting peace in the South Caucasus“, calling on the government to work towards the deployment of an international interposition force in Karabakh, to consider the imposition of personal economic sanctions and to to study the reinforcement of the defence capacities of Armenia. France is also one of the countries (about thirty in total) which recognized the Armenian genocide, to the great displeasure of Turkey, in 2001. So many facts which made the Azerbaijani Minister of Defence rightly say on last 30 March: Today it is no secret that Armenia has two main allies in the world, one of them is France and the second is Iran”.

The draft resolution on the crises of Francophonie 2022

Within the framework of the Summit, Nikol Pashinian, the Prime Minister of Armenia, held several bilateral meetings, in particular with the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, the French President, Emmanuel Macron, and the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who announced the opening of an embassy in the country. During his speech, he denounced the “unjustified and unprovoked pressures” of Azerbaijan and called for condemning “the occupation of parts of Armenian territory” and demanding “the return of Azerbaijani forces to their previous positions”.

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