Armenia’s leaders described Jacques Chirac as a “great man,” “global political giant” and friend of the Armenian people on Monday as France bade farewell to its former president who died last week aged 86.
Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian joined current and former world leaders in attending a funeral mass in memory of Chirac held at the Saint Sulpice church in Paris.
In a weekend tweet, Mnatsakanian said he is leaving for Paris to “pay tribute to a great global political giant and big friend of Armenia.”
“His contribution to relations between our peoples and nations is monumental,” Mnatsakanian wrote. “We bow our heads in deep respect and gratitude.”
In Yerevan, President Armen Sarkissian and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian visited the French Embassy to leave messages in a book of condolences set up there.
“France has lost a great statesman and a great man,” wrote Pashinian. “President Chirac was one of the symbols of the awakening of Armenian-French interstate relations.”
“The Armenian people will never forget his sincere friendship and valuable contribution made to the process of international recognition of the Armenian Genocide as well as the mediation efforts for a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he added.
For his part, Sarkissian described Chirac, who led France from 1995-2007, as a “great politician of our times” and “one of the architects of the special French-Armenian relationship.”
Chirac became in September 2006 the first French president and leader of a major Western power to visit Armenia. During his state visit he and then Armenian President Robert Kocharian inaugurated a square in downtown Yerevan named after France. Thousands of Armenians gathered there to listen to a speech delivered by Chirac at the ceremony.
While in Yerevan, Chirac also declared that recognition of the 1915 Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire should be a precondition for Turkey’s membership in the European Union. "Every country grows by acknowledging its dramas and errors of the past,” he said.
It was Chirac who signed into law in 2001 a French parliamentary bill that recognized the genocide. The leaders of the CCAF coalition of leading French-Armenian organizations emphasized this fact when they offered their “sincere condolences” to his wife Bernadette and French President Emmanuel Macron on September 26.