Seven members of France’s parliament have drawn praise from Armenia and strong condemnation from Azerbaijan for their visit to Nagorno-Karabakh that ended on Friday.
The six deputies of the French lower house of parliament and one senator met with Karabakh’s leaders, visited local cultural and educational institutions and laid flowers at a war memorial in Stepanakert during the three-day trip. They also spoke in the Karabakh parliament.
Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, reportedly told them on Wednesday that the Armenian-populated region is “interested in further development of cooperation with France.”
The multi-partisan delegation was headed by Guy Teissier, the chairman of the France-Artsakh Circle of Friendship in the French parliament. It also comprised fellow pro-Armenian deputy Valerie Boyer and two ethnic Armenian lawmakers, Daniele Cazarian and Guillaume Kasbarian. The latter are affiliated with French President Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique En Marche party.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian praised the lawmakers when he met with them in Yerevan on Friday evening.
“We highly appreciate your activities which testify to privileged French-Armenian relations,” Pashinian said. “We are grateful for your support of the rights of the Artsakh (Karabakh) people and for our principled stance, consistency and resolve.”
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry condemned the French delegation’s trip to Karabakh on Thursday, summoning the French ambassador in Baku and sending a protest note to Paris. It said that such “illegal” trips to “occupied territories of Azerbaijan” undermine peace efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chaired by France, Russia and the United States.
The ministry also said that the French parliamentarians have been added to a long list of foreign nationals declared persona no grata in Azerbaijan for visiting Karabakh without Baku’s permission.
Boyer and Teissier, who both represent France’s opposition Republicans party, had already been blacklisted by Azerbaijan after travelling to Karabakh in 2011.
Boyer scoffed at the Azerbaijani protest note. “Azerbaijan still practices the policy of threats,” she tweeted earlier on Friday.
The Armenian Foreign Ministry also denounced the Azerbaijani reaction. “Human rights are about human beings and this also applies to the people living in Artsakh,” said the ministry spokeswoman, Anna Naghdalian. She accused Baku of trying to “dehumanize” the Karabakh Armenians.