President Ilham Aliyev on Monday accused France of playing a very destructive role in the South Caucasus region, where Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a bloody 44-day war three years ago.
President Aliyev said the current relationship between France and Armenia could undermine the regional stability, amid attempts to achieve durable peace the region has been missing for decades.
“Actually, Armenia became a puppet of the French government now, and this can be a serious threat to the regional stability. We don't need any war. We fought on our own territory, and restored justice and international law. But the Armenian government and political establishment thinks about revenge,” he said in a joint press briefing with his Iraqi counterpart in Baku on Monday, referring to the liberation of Azerbaijani lands from Armenian occupation in 2020.
According to President Aliyev, the assistance by the French government to Armenia, including weaponization measures, actually created political and public illusions in Armenia about launching a military aggression against Azerbaijan.
“Weaponizing Armenia, which France is proud of and publicly states, will not help Armenia, if they decide to launch another war. The result will be the same. And no one will help them. Did France help them three years ago? No. Did they help them two months ago? No. What they can do here? Nothing,” the president noted.
Reports about the France-Armenia arms deal surfaced in early October when French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna announced that Paris had agreed to future contracts for delivering military hardware to Armenia. The weaponization of Armenia by France was de-jure agreed in the contracts “for expanding bilateral cooperation” signed by the defense ministers of these countries - Sébastien Lecornu and Suren Papikyan – on October 23 in Paris.
The government of France supplied in November the first batch of arms to Armenia, activating the terms of the contracts signed in October.
On November 12, French-made “Bastion” multi-purpose armored personnel carriers and components of the French “ARQUUS” brand for “Bastion” were recorded being unloaded at the Black Sea coastal Poti port in Georgia.
The shipment reportedly included 21+ “Bastion” vehicles out of the 24 carriers allocated by the French military.
The contracts also provide for French training for Armenian officers to operate the military equipment and assist in the ongoing reforms of the Armenian armed forces. Meanwhile, Lecornu confirmed the upcoming supplies of “Mistral” short-range surface-to-air missiles and three “Ground Master 200” radar systems of the French production to Armenia under the contracts. Armenian sources claim that 50 units of “VAB MK3” medium-weight combat-proven armored vehicles could also be part of the existing contracts.
In 2022, the military spending of Armenia stood at around $700-$800 million, but in 2024 it is going to hit $1.5 billion. Armenia has already secured a billion dollars of military contracts with India, in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars with France.
France’s military assistance to Armenia came on the heels of Azerbaijan’s one-day anti-terror operation in mid-September to neutralize illegal Armenian armed formations and their military infrastructure in the Karabakh region and restore Azerbaijan’s sovereignty over the region.
Although the illegal Armenian separatist regime in Azerbaijan's Karabakh region, the so-called “Nagorno-Karabakh Republic”, announced self-dissolution after the counter-terrorism measures, various political forces in Armenia, including representatives of the government, have been making periodic ungrounded claims, which are interpreted by the authorities of Azerbaijan as revanchist statements.
President Aliyev said the country's sovereignty has been restored over the entire territory of Azerbaijan, and warned of serious response to those seeking revanchism and separatism. However, Baku announced its readiness to provide conditions for the return of the Armenian residents – the citizens of Azerbaijan – to the Karabakh region. A special online platform was launched to facilitate their reintegration.
Meanwhile, 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 has used “threat” and “force” against the Armenian residents of the Karabakh region.
However, a reporter for Al Jazeera said in October that the Armenians 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.
“Armenia now is using its diaspora institutions in different parts of the world in order to attack Azerbaijan everywhere, but the result will be zero for them. We are ready for peace, but for the just peace – the peace based on recognition of territorial integrity and sovereignty of both countries, peace based on common sense and historical justice,” President Aliyev stated.