On the second day of his visit
to Yerevan as part of a broader South Caucasus tour that also included Azerbaijan’s capital Baku Sarkozy urged the parties to the protracted Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh to resolve their differences by peaceful means.
“I have told the president of Armenia to continue his way towards peace with Azerbaijan, which meets the interests of both countries,” Sarkozy said in Yerevan at a joint press conference with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian.
France is one of the three countries along with Russia and the United States jointly heading the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that spearheads international efforts to broker a solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Sarkozy traveled to Baku later on Friday to carry a similar message of peace before visiting Georgian capital Tbilisi on the last leg of his South Caucasus tour.
Speaking about the Karabakh conflict in Yerevan, Sarkozy stressed that Armenians and Azerbaijanis must continue their negotiations as part of the OSCE Minsk Group and that it is both nations that need peace.
Sarkozy also urged Armenia to continue its efforts on a rapprochement with Turkey that effectively ground to a halt last year, with both sides blaming each other for the failure. France was one of the states that supported the normalization effort.
Armenia - French President Nicolas Sarkozy shakes hands with those greeting him in France Square of the Armenian capital, Yerevan,07Oct,2011
“Of course, I’ve also encouraged President Sarkisian to continue dialogue with Turkey. It is unacceptable that the [Armenian] border with Turkey remain close in 2011,” he said.
Sarkozy simultaneously urged Turkey to recognize the First World War-era massacres of Armenians as genocide soon.
The French president said that if Turkey did not make this “step towards reconciliation”, he would consider proposing the adoption of a law criminalizing denial of the killings as genocide.
Still, Sarkozy noted that “it is not up to France to give an ultimatum to anyone.”
“I do not mention any time limits because I hope that the Turkish society and leadership will respond appropriately. In any case, I think that all this will take place during my time in office,” said Sarkozy, whose first term as French president expires in 2012.
France recognized the Ottoman-era massacres of Armenians as genocide back in 1998 as its parliament passed a corresponding bill.
Sarkozy angered Turkey ahead of his election in 2007 by backing a law aimed at prosecuting those who refused to recognize the massacres as genocide.
The French lower house of parliament later rejected the measure, infuriating the French-Armenian community estimated at around 500,000 people.
Present-day Turkey continues to deny that the mass killings and deportations of more than a million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire at the beginning of the 20th century constituted genocide.