The Senate speaker, Gerard Larcher, and Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, a secretary of state at the French Foreign Ministry, joined Armenian officials in laying wreaths at a memorial to 1.5 million Armenians massacred by the Ottoman Turks during the First World War.
“Today French and Armenian hearts in unison remember the Armenian Genocide,” Lemoyne tweeted afterwards.
In a letter to his Armenian counterpart Armen Sarkissian publicized on Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron said Lemoyne will “represent” him at the genocide commemorations.
“The fight for justice and truth that France is leading and will continue to lead by your side will not stop because it does not concern Armenians alone,” wrote Macron. “It is at the heart of the brotherhood of the French Republic.”
The French Foreign Ministry said, for its part, that Lemoyne’s participation in the ceremonies is of “particular importance” because 2021 marks the 20th anniversary of France's official recognition of the Armenian genocide. It also underscores Paris’s “resolute commitment” to Armenia’s development and security, read a ministry statement.
“France has played and continues to play a key role in international recognition of the Armenian genocide,” Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian told Lemoyne at a meeting held late on Friday.
Pashinian also praised Macron for supporting Armenia at a “difficult moment.”
Larcher arrived in Yerevan on Friday evening at the head of a delegation of about a dozen French senators.
The Senate speaker put their visit in a “painful context” of last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh and its aftermath. He portrayed the trip as a follow-up to the Senate’s November resolution calling on the French government to recognize Karabakh as an independent republic.
“Never before has a resolution been passed with such a strong majority,” Larcher wrote on his Twitter page.
Macron’s government ruled out Karabakh’s recognition, saying that it would be counterproductive for both France and international efforts to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
France is home to a sizable and influential Armenian community mostly consisting of descendants of survivors of the 1915 genocide.