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Azerbaijan Rejects French Allegations of Supporting Separatism in New Caledonia

By Ilham Karimli May 2, 2024

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The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan / Courtesy

The Azerbaijani government has rejected the recent claims made by French Interior Minister Gérard Darmanin, who accused Baku of fostering separatist movements by strengthening its relationships with New Caledonia, a French autonomous territory in the Pacific.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry said that the accusations are an attempt by Minister Darmanin to whitewash France's own controversial support of separatism within Azerbaijan's borders.

“It is known that the French Parliament, at the initiative of the ruling party of France, adopted decisions and resolutions that recognized the separatist regime, challenged and harmed the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, as well as enabled the activity of a friendship group with the former so-called separatist regime,” the statement read.

The ministry further stated that Minister Darmanin’s allegations about a “massacre of Armenian population” by Azerbaijan are “ridiculous and cheap accusations.”

“The French Minister of the Interior should not forget that his country has committed crimes against humanity toward local peoples and brutally murdered millions of innocent people as part of its colonial policy implemented for many years and continued now,” the statement noted.

In his remarks before the French National Assembly's Law Committee on Monday, Darmanin accused Azerbaijan of pitting the issue of New Caledonia against the “defense of Armenians, which does honor to France.”

Darmanin's allegations are seen as a response to a memorandum of understanding signed between Azerbaijan's Parliament and the Congress of New Caledonia on April 18. The memorandum provides for enhancing inter-parliamentary cooperation to foster goodwill between the people of Azerbaijan and New Caledonia.

France, once sending diplomats to the OSCE Minsk Group as one of the co-chairs to mediate a resolution to the former conflict in the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, has been publicly taking Armenia’s side despite its neutrality obligation. Alongside the co-chairs Russia and the US, France’s efforts in the Minsk Group failed to go beyond infertile shuttle diplomacy.

After the end of the 2020 Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, which de-facto terminated the OSCE Minsk Group as a mediator, and the anti-terror measures of Azerbaijan in the Karabakh region in 2023, France has been supplying military hardware to Armenia. The export included the French-made “Bastion” multi-purpose armored personnel carriers and components of the French “ARQUUS” brand for “Bastion” under the contracts signed “for expanding bilateral cooperation” in 2023. The “Mistral” short-range surface-to-air missiles and three radar systems are also reportedly on the export list.

In January, the members of the Azerbaijani parliament blamed France for undermining mutual confidence-building measures and peace efforts between Azerbaijan and Armenia by arming the latter and encouraging Armenian revanchists to wage a new war.

France’s military assistance to Armenia gained momentum after Azerbaijan’s one-day anti-terror operation in 2023 to neutralize illegal Armenian armed formations and their military infrastructure in the Karabakh region and restore Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the region.

At the time, France condemned the events in the Karabakh region as an offensive by Azerbaijan, voicing solidarity with Armenia. French Prime Minister Elisabeth Borne alleged that Azerbaijan used “threat” and “force” against the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region.

However, a reporter by Al Jazeera said in October that the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region stated they have not been forced out of their houses and have not faced any human rights abuses by the Azerbaijani side. The Armenian residents of Karabakh voluntarily left the region despite Baku’s persistent calls to stay and reintegrate.

The Azerbaijani authorities established necessary government offices, including the labor and migration administration, as well as launched an online reintegration portal to help Karabakh’s Armenian residents reintegrate.