French Foreign and European Affairs Minister Catherine Colonna leaves following the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, October 26, 2022.

US, France ‘Combining Efforts’ Against Karabakh Blockade as Russia Warns about Interference

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — The United States and France are working together to try to end Azerbaijan’s continuing blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh’s land link with Armenia and the outside world, the French Foreign Ministry said on Friday, February 10.

The ministry said that French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken discussed the issue in a phone call on Thursday. It said they “emphasized the need for free movement along the Lachin corridor to be immediately restored.”

“The serious humanitarian consequences of the current deadlock on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are unacceptable, and France and the United States are combining their efforts to end the situation, through their contacts between [Armenian] Prime Minister Pashinyan and [Azerbaijani] President Aliyev ,” added a statement released by the ministry.

French President Emmanuel Macron spoke with Pashinyan by phone on Monday, February 13. According to the presidential Elysee Palace, Macron said the reopening of the corridor, blocked by Azerbaijani government-backed protesters on December 12, remains a “priority” for him. He also voiced “France’s full solidarity with the Armenian populations facing growing humanitarian needs.”

The US and France have repeatedly called for an end to the road blockade compounded by disruptions in Armenia’s electricity and natural gas supplies to Nagorno-Karabakh carried out through Azerbaijani-controlled territory. Azerbaijan has ignored these appeals, continuing to defend the protesters demanding that Baku be allowed to inspect “illegal” copper mines in Karabakh.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov reaffirmed Baku’s position during a phone conversation with US Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried on Friday. Bayramov reportedly told her that the protesters’ demands are “legitimate” and must be fulfilled.

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Donfried also spoke with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Mirzoyan reiterated that the “illegal” blockade must be lifted “without any preconditions.”

The French co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, Brice Roquefeuil, telephoned Mirzoyan earlier on Friday.

The Minsk Group was for decades led by the US, France and Russia. Their joint mediation format collapsed following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

 

Russia Warns EU

In what appeared to be a stern warning to Armenia’s leadership, Russia’s State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said on February 13 that European bodies must not be involved in efforts to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.

Singling out the European Parliament and the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Volodin claimed that they can only fan regional tensions. Armenia and Azerbaijan should stick to their agreements brokered by Russia during and after their 2020 war, he told Azerbaijani parliament speaker Sahiba Gafarova during talks held in Moscow.

“And those who make statements in the direction of European institutions may simply lose the country,” warned Volodin, who is a close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

He said that the European Parliament, the PACE and other Western bodies have never settled any conflict and have instead caused the breakup of Yugoslavia and the ongoing war in Ukraine.

“Therefore, while wishing to involve the European Parliament and the PACE, they should think ten times and weigh up how that could end, using the example of Ukraine, Yugoslavia and other countries,” Volodin went on. ”Anyone who wants peace, who wants to resolve the situation, must not only stay away from these quasi-parliaments — both the PACE and the European Parliament — but clearly understand that their involvement will aggravate the situation, create more and more problems . And if they do that, they must be held accountable for the consequences.”

Both the European Parliament and the PACE discussed at recent plenary sessions Azerbaijan’s continuing blockade of the sole road connecting Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia.

The European Union legislature urged Azerbaijan to “immediately reopen” the Lachin corridor in a resolution approved on January 19 and hailed by Armenian officials. The resolution also condemned the “inaction” of Russian peacekeeping forces in Karabakh and called for their “replacement with OSCE international peacekeepers.”

Late last week, the European Parliament’s Committee on Foreign Affairs released a report accusing Russia of conducting “disinformation campaigns” against the West in Armenia. It also demanded the immediate withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from Armenian territory seized during deadly border clashes last September.

Armenian leaders regularly complain about Russia’s reluctance to condemn what they see as the Azerbaijani military aggression. They say that this is why they asked the EU to launch a new monitoring mission along Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan.

Much to the dismay of Moscow, the EU agreed last month to deploy more than 100 monitors there on a two-year mission. The Russian Foreign Ministry accused the 27-nation bloc of seeking to “push back Russia’s mediation efforts at any cost.”

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