French President Emmanuel Macron

France Starts Process of Sending Aid to Karabakh

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PARIS (Combined Sources) — At the request of President Macron and the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, France is establishing a structured effort to assist Armenians affected by the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Coordinated by a steering committee at the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs’ Crisis and Support Center, this mechanism mobilizes the efforts of the government, associations promoting solidarity with Armenia, humanitarian organizations belonging to Coordination Sud, corporate foundations and hospitals. It focuses on three areas.

  • After initial emergency actions in recent weeks involving the dispatch of surgeons and medical/surgical supplies to Armenia, several humanitarian flights have been organized. An initial cargo plane leased by the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs arrived in Yerevan this afternoon. It was transporting items donated by French authorities: emergency medical equipment, and in particular a Mobile Medical Station allowing for the care of 500 people as well as blankets and hygiene kits to be distributed to people affected by the conflict.

A second flight has been scheduled for November 27. Its cargo will include State resources, donations collected from associations promoting solidarity with Armenia such as the Aznavour Foundation and the Union Générale Arménienne de Bienfaisance, and humanitarian cargo supplied by humanitarian organizations and corporate foundations.

  • Following on from the medical missions conducted since October, the second area of focus involves stepping up cooperation between hospitals in both countries. This will be facilitated by financial support from the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs. In France, the public hospitals of Paris, Marseille and Lyon have already been mobilized.
  • The third area focuses on supporting projects instituted in Armenia by humanitarian organizations and UN agencies. France will provide direct financial support for these structures that are active on the ground.

Finally, local governments, some of which are already actively supporting projects in Armenia, have been invited to contribute to these three areas of focus.

This mechanism for providing humanitarian assistance comes in response to the emergency situation created by the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh in recent weeks.

Ambassador of France to Armenia Jonathan Lacôte posted the following on his Facebook page on November 22:

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“The first plane carrying humanitarian aid announced by the President of France has arrived in Yerevan.

This plane, which was leased by the Crisis Center of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs of France, has carried medical equipment and medicine to build the capacities of the healthcare system in Armenia, as well as first necessity items for those who were displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and are currently in Armenia.

Macron Calls for Protection in Karabakh

In fresh calls with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, French President Emmanuel Macron has stressed the need to protect Nagorno-Karabakh’s population and cultural heritage following the Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

Macron’s office said he discussed with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Aliyev late on Thursday, November 19, France’s “priorities” regarding the Karabakh conflict.

“The end of the fighting should now allow the resumption of good faith negotiations in order to protect the population of Nagorno-Karabakh and ensure the return of tens of thousands of people, who have fled their homes in recent weeks, in good security conditions,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.

Macron also called for “strong measures to protect the religious and cultural heritage of this region,” added the statement.

“The guns fell silent in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Macron wrote on his Twitter page. “We are now working for a heritage and cultural ceasefire with Armenia and Azerbaijan and our partners in the Minsk Group to preserve and restore the treasure of diversity and wealth of the whole region.”

“France is ready to provide, within the framework of the UNESCO, with the Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflicts, its expertise and full support for the protection of the cultural and religious heritage of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surroundings,” he said in a separate tweet.

The French leader appeared to refer to Armenian churches on territory regained by Azerbaijan during and after the war. Armenia has already accused Azerbaijani troops of vandalizing two such churches located in the Karabakh town of Shushi (Shusha).

Yerevan has also expressed serious concern about the fate of the medieval Dadivank monastery located in the Kelbajar district, which is due to be handed over to Azerbaijan on November 25. Russian peacekeeping forces set up a post at Dadivank late last week to protect its Armenian clergymen who plan to stay there after the handover.

France co-chairs the Minsk Group together with Russia and the United States. The three world powers tried hard to halt the war in and around Karabakh that broke out on September 27. The hostilities stopped only after Moscow brokered a fresh Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreement on November 9.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the deal’s implementation with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov “explained the parameters” of Russia’s peacekeeping operation in the conflict zone envisaged by the deal.

“The ministers agreed that the main priorities now are the safe return of refugees and internally displaced people, unblocking of all economic and transport links in the region, provision of humanitarian aid and reconstruction of civilian infrastructure,” read a statement released by the ministry.

It said Lavrov and Le Drian also discussed “further steps for a long-term and full-fledged settlement” of the Karabakh conflict.

Reuters reported, meanwhile, that Paris is seeking international supervision of the ceasefire because it is worried that Russia and Turkey could strike a deal to cut out Western powers from future peace talks

“We understand that the Russians are talking to the Turks regarding a possible formula, which we don’t want, that would replicate the Astana (process) to divide their roles in this sensitive region,” the news agency quoted a French presidential official as saying.

“We can’t have on one side Minsk and the other Astana. At one point the Russians have to make a choice,” added the unnamed official.

The Astana forum enabled Russia and Turkey to discuss between them how to handle the Syrian conflict and brush aside Western powers.

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