Macron’s office said he discussed with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Aliyev late on Thursday France’s “priorities” regarding the Karabakh conflict.
“The end of the fighting should now allow the resumption of good faith negotiations in order to protect the population of Nagorno-Karabakh and ensure the return of tens of thousands of people, who have fled their homes in recent weeks, in good security conditions,” the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
Macron also called for “strong measures to protect the religious and cultural heritage of this region,” added the statement.
“The guns fell silent in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Macron wrote on his Twitter page. “We are now working for a heritage and cultural ceasefire with Armenia and Azerbaijan and our partners in the Minsk Group to preserve and restore the treasure of diversity and wealth of the whole region.”
“France is ready to provide, within the framework of the UNESCO, with the Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflicts, its expertise and full support for the protection of the cultural and religious heritage of Nagorno-Karabakh and its surroundings,” he said in a separate tweet.
The French leader appeared to refer to Armenian churches on territory regained by Azerbaijan during and after the war. Armenia has already accused Azerbaijani troops of vandalizing two such churches located in the Karabakh town of Shushi (Shusha).
Yerevan has also expressed serious concern about the fate of the medieval Dadivank monastery located in the Kelbajar district, which is due to be handed over to Azerbaijan on November 25. Russian peacekeeping forces set up a post at Dadivank late last week to protect its Armenian clergymen who plan to stay there after the handover.
France co-chairs the Minsk Group together with Russia and the United States. The three world powers tried hard to halt the war in and around Karabakh that broke out on September 27. The hostilities stopped only after Moscow brokered a fresh Armenian-Azerbaijani ceasefire agreement on November 9.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the deal’s implementation with his French counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian on Thursday. According to the Russian Foreign Ministry, Lavrov “explained the parameters” of Russia’s peacekeeping operation in the conflict zone envisaged by the deal.
“The ministers agreed that the main priorities now are the safe return of refugees and internally displaced people, unblocking of all economic and transport links in the region, provision of humanitarian aid and reconstruction of civilian infrastructure,” read a statement released by the ministry.
It said Lavrov and Le Drian also discussed “further steps for a long-term and full-fledged settlement” of the Karabakh conflict.
Reuters reported, meanwhile, that Paris is seeking international supervision of the ceasefire because it is worried that Russia and Turkey could strike a deal to cut out Western powers from future peace talks
“We understand that the Russians are talking to the Turks regarding a possible formula, which we don’t want, that would replicate the Astana (process) to divide their roles in this sensitive region,” the news agency quoted a French presidential official as saying.
“We can’t have on one side Minsk and the other Astana. At one point the Russians have to make a choice,” added the unnamed official.
The Astana forum enabled Russia and Turkey to discuss between them how to handle the Syrian conflict and brush aside Western powers.