French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian called for the expansion of France’s cordial relationship with Armenia on Monday during a visit to Yerevan timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the first Armenian republic.
Le Drian emphasized the fact that he is the first high-level foreign official to visit the South Caucasus state since the recent dramatic change of its government.
“Armenia is at a turning point in its history,” he said after talks with his new Armenian counterpart, Zohrab Mnatsakanian. “We welcome the responsibility shown by political forces and the Armenia people [during the political crisis,] which allowed the election of a new prime minister [on May 8.]”
“I am very proud of being the first high-ranking foreign official to visit new Armenia and meet its new leaders,” he told a joint news briefing with Mnatsakanian. “France will continue to stand with Armenia and help it to build democracy.”
Le Drian, who met with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian later in the day, also reaffirmed France’s strong support for Armenia’s efforts to forge closer links with the European Union. He stressed the significance of a wide-ranging agreement which the previous Armenian government signed with the EU last November.
Mnatsakanian also emphasized the “privileged” character of French-Armenian relations. He said he and Le Drian held a “productive discussion” on bilateral ties and regional security.
Those ties stem in large measure from the existence of an influential Armenian community in France. Yerevan will underline them when it hosts in October a summit of Francophonie, a grouping of over 70 mainly French-speaking nations.
Preparations for the summit were also high on the agenda of Le Drian’s talks in Yerevan. The minister reaffirmed that French President Emmanuel Macron’s plans to travel to Armenia in October on a state visit that will be followed by his participation in the Francophonie summit.
With France co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group together with Russia and the United States, the two ministers also discussed the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Le Drian called for renewed efforts at a negotiated solution to the conflict, saying that “both the status quo and the use of force are not acceptable.”
“We reaffirm Armenia’s commitment to a solely peaceful resolution of the Karabakh problem,” Mnatsakanian said for his part. “My colleague and I agreed that an atmosphere conducive to peace is important for the success of the process.”