French parliament speaker Yael Braun-Pivet, left, with her Armenian counterpart, Allen Simonyan

French Speaker Urges End to Blockade of Karabakh during Visit to Armenia

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By Ruzanna Stepanyan

YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — French parliament speaker Yael Braun-Pivet expressed serious concern over Azerbaijan’s continuing blockade of the Lachin Corridor and reaffirmed France’s support for Armenia’s territorial integrity during an official visit to Yerevan on Friday, January 13.

“We are concerned because the blockade is creating a worsening humanitarian situation [in Nagorno-Karabakh,]” Braun-Pivet said after talks held with her Armenian counterpart Alen Simonyan.

“It is very important that free traffic between Armenia and Karabakh and electricity and internet connections be restored,” she told a joint news conference. ”We will do everything to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.”

French President Emmanuel Macron urged Baku to “allow free movement along the Lachin Corridor” when he phoned his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev late last month. According to the French readout of the call, Aliyev expressed his “intention” to do so.

However, government-backed Azerbaijani protesters have since continued to block the only road connecting Karabakh to Armenia on ostensibly environmental grounds. Azerbaijani officials have endorsed their actions.

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Later in December, the leaders of France’s mainstream opposition parties said Paris should establish a “humanitarian presence” in Karabakh and seek Western economic and political sanctions against Azerbaijan.

Braun-Pivet, who is affiliated with Macron’s LREM party, spoke out against unilateral French sanctions, saying that possibilities of dialogue with Baku have not been exhausted yet. She also noted that France does not recognize Karabakh as an independent republic “in accordance with international law.”

The speaker of the French National Assembly also said that she is visiting Armenia because she believes France “must stand alongside brotherly countries whose territorial integrity is threatened and attacked.”

“As you know, France has always been alongside Armenia to strengthen the country’s sovereignty and independence,” she said.

France is home to a sizable and influential Armenian community. Azerbaijan has repeatedly accused it of siding with Armenia in the Karabakh conflict.

Simonian said on Friday that Paris has always been an honest broker. He at the same time praised it for “doing everything to bring peace to the region and defend the interests of Armenia and the Armenian people.”

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