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France Open To Defense Cooperation With Armenia


Armenia - French Ambassador Jonathan Lacote at a news conference in Yerevan, July 12, 2018

France is ready to consider embarking on military cooperation with Armenia that would boost the South Caucasus state’s security, the French ambassador in Yerevan, Jonathan Lacote, said on Wednesday.

Lacote cautioned at the same time that the two countries are members of different military alliances and that France’s top priority in the region is to facilitate a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict together with Russia and the United States, the two other co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

“As I said last week in an interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, France is willing to examine Armenia’s requests relating to defense,” he told a news conference. “But one must also take into account the overall context. First of all, France and Armenia are not part of the same military alliance.”

“Generally speaking, our goal is not to prepare for future wars but to prevent wars because we believe that regional problems should not be resolved by force,” he went on. “The issues of Karabakh’s status and the Armenia-Azerbaijan border should be resolved only through negotiations. Any other path would lead to deadlock.”

Armenia is allied to Russia through bilateral defense treaties and membership in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government has pledged to further deepen Russian-Armenian military ties since last year’s war in Karabakh.

Lacote spoke with journalists amid fresh fighting on Armenia’s border with Azerbaijan which left three Armenian soldiers dead on Wednesday morning.

“Naturally, our thoughts are with the families of the killed soldiers,” he said, expressing serious concern at the escalation.

The envoy again called on Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume a “political process” that would address Karabakh’s status and lead to the demarcation of their border. “But the process must be fair and must take place without any use of force,” he said.

The latest fighting erupted at some of the several portions of the border where Azerbaijani forces advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory in May. French President Emmanuel Macron has repeatedly demanded their withdrawal.

“We stand in solidarity with Armenia and we will continue to do so,” Macron said as he met with Pashinian in Paris on June 1.

Baku maintains that its troops took up new positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier and did not cross into Armenia.

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