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Azerbaijan Urges Armenia to Halt Military Buildup Amid French Arms Deal, Calls for Peace Commitment

By Ilham Karimli June 21, 2024

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The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan, Baku, Azerbaijan / Azertag

The Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan has called on Armenia to cease justifying its ongoing military buildup and instead focus on the normalization process to achieve lasting peace.

This statement was a response to the Armenian Foreign Ministry’s assertion that militarization is a sovereign right, necessary for maintaining a combat-ready army equipped with modern military technology.

Recently, Yerevan and Paris signed an agreement for the supply of French-made Caesar self-propelled howitzers to the Armenian army. Baku criticized this move, seeing it as a potential enabler of future Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan.

“Contrary to statements that allegedly support peace and aims at strengthening Armenia’s defense capabilities, it is evident that nations like France, which are competing to equip Armenia with offensive lethal weaponry, are serving to turn Armenia into a new source of tension and threat. Taking into account the fact that this policy contributes to the future possible aggression of Armenia, it is important to refrain from these steps until it is too late,” the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan said in the statement on Wednesday.

The ministry also asserted that Armenian authorities are not genuinely interested in achieving sustainable peace. Instead, according to the ministry, they are trying to maintain the current situation as a backup option to start aggression against Azerbaijan again in the future.

“Instead of such provocations and ideas full of political manipulation against Azerbaijan, Armenia must adhere to international obligations not in words but in deeds and contribute to peace process,” the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan concluded.

France has signed a contract to sell Caesar self-propelled howitzers to Armenia, Defense Minister Sébastien Lecornu announced earlier this week. Lecornu shared on X that the agreement was signed during a meeting with his Armenian counterpart, Suren Papikyan, though he did not disclose the number of systems Armenia would be purchasing.

Lecornu described the contract as a “new important milestone” in the military relationship between France and Armenia.

“We continue to strengthen our defense relationship with Armenia,” he wrote.

The Armenian Defense Ministry announced on Monday that one of Papikyan’s deputies, Karen Brutian, and a senior executive from KNDS France, the manufacturer of the Caesar systems, signed an “agreement on military-technical cooperation.” However, no further details of the deal were provided, which was signed in the presence of both ministers.

The Caesar is reportedly among the most advanced artillery systems in the world, with a firing range of over 40 kilometers. The Caesar 155mm howitzer, mounted on a 6x6 chassis, offers strategic and tactical mobility. Its 155 mm/52 caliber howitzer delivers accurate and long-range fire support, and its wheeled chassis allows for air transport, reducing transport costs.

This advanced artillery system is just one example of France’s growing role as Armenia’s major arms supplier. Last fall, Paris committed to selling weapons and providing further military assistance to Armenia. This commitment is part of a larger effort to strengthen bilateral relations, bolstered by the influential Armenian community in France. The promised weaponry includes advanced radars, short-range air-defense systems, armored personnel carriers, and night-vision equipment. Some of this equipment had already been delivered to Armenia by the time Lecornu visited the South Caucasus country in February.

The French government began delivering arms to Armenia in November 2023, implementing the cooperation contracts signed the previous October. Numerous French-made “Bastion” multi-purpose armored personnel carriers and components of the French “ARQUUS” brand for “Bastion” were seen being unloaded at the Black Sea port of Poti in Georgia.

The shipment reportedly included 21 out of the 24 “Bastion” vehicles allocated by the French military. These vehicles and their components were expected to be transported from Poti to the Georgia-Armenia border and handed over to the Armenian side.

These French military supplies followed the signing of contracts aimed at expanding bilateral cooperation. In October 2023, French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced that Paris had agreed to future contracts for delivering military hardware to Yerevan. Later, Armenia’s Defense Minister Papikyan and his French counterpart Lecornu signed the contracts in Paris.

Lecornu stated that France would also provide training for Armenian officers to operate the military equipment and assist in the ongoing reforms of the Armenian armed forces.

According to Lecornu, Armenia would also purchase “Mistral” short-range surface-to-air missiles and three radar systems from France. Additionally, reports indicate that 50 units of “VAB MK3” medium-weight combat-proven armored vehicles could be part of the existing contracts.