Three members of France’s parliament met with Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leaders on Monday during a visit to the disputed territory that will likely prompt protests from Azerbaijan.
Francois Rochebloine, a pro-Armenian member of the French lower house, and Senators Henri de Raincourt and Bernard Saugey held separate meetings with Karabakh’s President Bako Sahakian and Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan.
All three lawmakers are affiliated with center-right parties that are in opposition to France’s current Socialist government. De Raincourt served as a minister in former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s cabinet before returning to the French Senate in June last year.
In a statement, Sahakian’s office said the Karabakh leader discussed with the visiting parliamentarians the unresolved conflict with Azerbaijan and broader regional security. Sahakian was quoted as stressing the importance of the recent creation of a French parliamentary group promoting cooperation with Karabakh.
A pro-Armenian member of that group, Valerie Boyer, visited Karabakh together with a Greek member of the European Parliament late last month. Boyer called for international recognition of Karabakh’s de facto secession from Azerbaijan during the trip.
Like Raincourt and Saugey, Boyer is a member of Sarkozy’s Union for the Popular Movement party. She was the main author of a 2012 French bill criminalizing denial of the Armenian genocide.
Azerbaijan is likely to condemn the French senators and declare them persona no grata for visiting Karabakh without its permission. Both Rochebloine and Boyer were blacklisted by Baku after their first trips to the Armenian-controlled territory in 2010 and 2011.