French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu, right, with Armenian Defense Minister Suren Papikyan

France and Armenia to Sign Agreement on Purchase of French Weapons


PARIS (Azatutyun) — France pledged to boost Armenia’s air defenses, train Armenian military personnel and help the South Caucasus country reform its armed forces as the French group Thales and Yerevan signed a contract for the purchase of three radar systems on Monday, October 23.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikyan also signed a “letter of intent” on the future delivery of Mistral short-range surface-to-air missiles.

They gave no financial or other details of these deals during a joint news conference held after their talks in Paris. Lecornu emphasized the defensive character of what will be the first-ever Western-manufactured major weapons supplied to Armenia.

“It is a weapon system which, by its very nature, can only be used when there is an aggression against Armenian territory and often with civilian populations underneath,” he said, alluding to the risk of Azerbaijani invasion of Armenia.

Lecornu also announced that France will train Armenian officers to operate the military equipment known for its “remarkable detection capabilities” and assist in ongoing reforms of the Armenian armed forces. A special French military official will advise the Armenian Defense Ministry on those reforms, he said, adding that French instructors will be sent to Armenia to teach its troops new combat techniques.

The French government first signaled arms supplies to Armenia last year following large-scale fighting on the country’s border with Azerbaijan which resulted in Azerbaijani territorial gains. It gave the green light for them following last month’s Azerbaijani military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh that led to the restoration of Azerbaijani control over the region and displaced its virtually entire ethnic Armenian population. French President Emmanuel Macron suggested that Baku might now attack Armenia as well.

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“France has given its agreement to the conclusion of future contracts with Armenia which will allow the delivery of military equipment to Armenia so that it can ensure its defense,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna said during an October 3 visit to Yerevan.

The Azerbaijani government condemned Colonna’s announcement as further proof of Paris’s pro-Armenian bias in the Karabakh conflict. Baku itself has increased its military expenditures after the 2020 Karabakh war, buying more weapons from Turkey, Israel and possibly other countries.

Armenia is stepping up military cooperation with France, a major NATO member, amid its worsening relationship with Russia, a long-time ally. The tensions stem in large measure from what Yerevan sees as a lack of Russian support in the conflict with Azerbaijan. Moscow’s failure to prevent, stop or even condemn the Azerbaijani offensive in Karabakh only added to them.

Also, Armenian leaders have implied over the past year that Moscow has failed to supply more weapons to Yerevan despite Russian-Armenian defense contracts signed after the 2020 war in Karabakh. They have said they have no choice but to look for alternative arms suppliers.

France, which is home to a sizable and influential Armenian community, has become Armenia’s leading Western backer during Macron’s rule. Lecornu said on Monday that he is committed to the South Caucasus nation’s territorial integrity despite the fact that “we are not part of the same military and political alliances.”

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