The banquet (photo Jean Eckian)

French Prime Minister Jean Castex at the Banquet of the Armenian Organizations of France

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PARIS — On Tuesday, February 8, the Council of Armenian Organizations of France (CCAF), represented by Ara Toranian and Mourad Papazian, received for its 8th annual banquet, more than 150 French personalities from politics, culture and worship, sport and media, and Armenian, Jewish, Assyro-Chaldean, Kurdish, Cypriot, Tutsi associations, as well as elected representatives of the French Republic and representatives of the embassies of Armenia, Russia, United States, UNESCO, etc. Civil society was also represented by academics and specialists from the sphere of criminal law. In all there was a total of 450 guests gathered in the salons of Hôtel du Collectionneur in Paris.

Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (photo Jean Eckian)

Candidates for the French presidential election, Anne Hidalgo (mayor of Paris) and Valérie Pécresse (president of the Ile-de-France region) attended. This election is scheduled on April 24, 2022, the day of the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. This commemorative day was formalized within the French Republic in 2019 by President Emmanuel Macron, who that evening was in Berlin. due to the crisis around Ukraine.

In the preamble to the evening, the co-presidents of the CCAF, in a serious atmosphere, took the floor to denounce the “butchery” of the Armenians of Karabakh, for which Azerbaijan is responsible.

Valérie Pécresse (photo Jean Eckian)

Ara Toranian

Ara Toranian, very moved, exclaimed: “’The Turks passed there,’ wrote Victor Hugo after the massacres on the island of Chios two hundred years ago. And today, again, ‘all is ruin and mourning.’ But in the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh this time, as was the case in Cyprus in 1974, among the Yezidis, the Assyro-Chaldeans, or in Syrian and Iraqi Turkish Kurdistan during the last decade […] this is the nightmare, made worse by the fact that the world has fallen silent, except for one voice. It was yours, Mr. President of the Republic, you who, by evoking the crossing of a red line, denounced the Azerbaijani aggressor, as well as the presence in the fighting of jihadist mercenaries recruited by Erdogan in the region of Aleppo. […] In the name of everything that binds Armenia to France, in the name of these very powerful formulas that you have used several times, we still hope for a referral to the United Nations Security Council to internationalize the issue and guarantee the existence of what remains of this people and this nation in danger. […] Hasn’t the time finally come to reconcile justice and law so that we can gather with our heads held high in front of the Dzidzernakapert memorial, look Armenia in the face, and defend with her all our democratic and republican values?”

Ara Toranian (photo Jean Eckian)

Mourad Papazian

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As for Mourad Papazian, he said with gravity: “We approach this year 2022 in pain. The inevitable happened! […] We knew it, you knew it. Azerbaijan was preparing for war.

Mourad Papazian (photo Jean Eckian)

“Erdogan’s many threats against Armenia for years foreshadowed Turkey’s active participation. The political agenda of the Turkish-Azerbaijani forces was clear. And on September 27, 2020, Azerbaijan launched a military offensive against Artsakh. And as if the unequal balance of power was not enough with the massive use of drones, cluster munitions and white phosphorus bombs, the Turkish army has engaged in this war by sending 80 military experts to Baku, 1200 Turkish elite soldiers on the ground, as well as 2000 Syrian jihadists auxiliary to the Turkish army. Yes, we are shocked that the Armenians were totally abandoned.”

From left, Mourad Papazian, Kristina and Nicolas Aznavour, Ara Toranian (photo Jean Eckian)

Murad Papazian was indignant because when 2,000 Azerbaijani soldiers entered the sovereign territory of Armenia, they should have been “expelled by force.” “So yes, we are indignant. We are revolted. We cannot accept this fait accompli which is imposed on the Armenians and which endangers their future in Armenia and in Artsakh,” he said. He continued: “So, dear friends, you will understand that we no longer believe in negotiations with Azerbaijan, we no longer believe in diplomatic summits, we no longer believe in summits in Brussels or Paris!”

From left, Alain Terzian, former president Césars of the cinema, Mourad Papazian, Ambassador of Armenia to France Hasmik Tolmajian, Ara Toranian (photo Jean Eckian)

Finally, the co-president of the CCAF regretted that “the file of the criminalization of the denial of the Armenian Genocide has not been dealt with in the face of the multiple Turkish threats hanging over the Armenian community in France, in particular with the resurgence of the ‘Gray Wolves’. He denounced “the Turkish organizations, controlled by Erdogan, which are prospering more and more, and manage many mosques, schools, lead many radical imams and export their policy of hatred to France. […],” concluding, “We must act before it is too late. We must act against Erdogan’s influence, act against his actions, act against his objectives of extending his power in France.”

Jean Castex, Prime Minister of France

In his speech, French Prime Minister Jean Castex hailed President Joseph Biden for the United States’ recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He further stated that: “We have been working to develop the legal tools to fight against this denial, hate speech online and on social networks.” Regarding the Karabakh war, the prime minister paid tribute to the young Armenian soldiers “mowed down by the war that pitted Armenia against Azerbaijan for 44 days.” He recalled that President Macron “was the first head of state to denounce the aggression by Azerbaijan and the Turkish interference,” and stated “Our efforts will continue tirelessly until the release of all detainees by Azerbaijan is obtained.”

Prime Minister of France Jean Castex (photo Jean Eckian)

After a long speech of 25 minutes, Jean Castex concluded to say “the destinies of our nations are deeply, intimately linked and have been for centuries. The history of Armenia, we know, is forever marked by the blood of the victims of the Genocide and the tears of those who remained, of those who do not forget…”

From left, Gabriel Attal (government spokesperson), Jean Castex, Gérard Larcher (Senate president) (photo Jean Eckian)

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