France’s Macron Insists on Azerbaijani Troop Withdrawal

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PARIS (RFE/RL) — French President Emmanuel Macron again demanded that Azerbaijan withdraw its troops from Armenia’s border areas when he met with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Paris on Tuesday, June 1.

Macron also called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to demarcate their border through negotiations and without “any fait accompli on the ground.”

“The Azerbaijani troops must leave Armenia’s sovereign territory,” he said after greeting Pashinyan at the presidential Elysee Palace. “I am calling on the parties to return to the positions held by them on May 11. France is ready to facilitate discussions.”

“We stand in solidarity with Armenia and we will continue to do so,” he added in a statement to the press made before a lunch meeting with Pashinyan.

Macron was quick to voice strong support for Yerevan after Azerbaijani forces reportedly crossed several sections of the border and advanced a few kilometers into Armenia’s Syunik and Gegharkunik provinces on May 12. “They must withdraw immediately,” he tweeted after a May 13 phone call with Pashinyan.

The U.S. State Department similarly urged Azerbaijan to “pull back all forces immediately and cease further provocation” on May 14.

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Baku maintains that its troops took up new positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier and did not cross into Armenia.

Tensions at the contested border sections rose further after six Armenian soldiers were captured by Azerbaijani forces on May 27. Pashinyan proposed hours later that both sides withdraw their troops from those areas and let Russia and/or the United States and France, the two other countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, deploy observers there.

In a joint statement issued the following day, the French, Russian and US diplomats co-heading the Minsk Group backed the proposed troop disengagement. But they did not specify whether their countries are ready to send observers.

Macron said on Tuesday that France will do its best to achieve a “de-escalation and re-establishment of dialogue between the parties.” He indicated that the border crisis and the broader situation in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone will be high on the agenda of his meeting with Pashinyan.

Pashinyan thanked the French leader for having “spoken the language of truth since the outset of the crisis.” “This is extremely important for overcoming crisis situations in our region,” he told reporters before the talks.

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