The former journalist and commentator, known for provocative statements against Islam and immigration, is the main challenger to longtime far-right figure Marine Le Pen for a place in a second round of France’s presidential election slated for April. One of them could face the incumbent President Emmanuel Macron in the runoff vote.
Zemmour announced his decision to officially join the presidential race last Tuesday. He said on Friday that he chose Armenia for his first campaign trip because "it is an old Christian land” and “one of the cradles of our civilization.”
"Armenia is in danger,” the AFP news agency quoted him as saying. “It was once a martyr land during the times of the Ottoman Empire and massacres like the Armenian genocide. This country is harassed again by its neighbor Azerbaijan and especially by Turkey.”
Zemmour laid flowers at the Armenian genocide memorial in Yerevan and attended a Sunday mass at the ancient Khor Virap monastery located just a few kilometers from the Armenian-Turkish border.
“On the border between Armenia and Turkey, facing Mount Ararat, I want to tell the Armenians what a model of resistance they have been for centuries,” the 63-year-old tweeted afterwards.
Zemmour spoke of a renewed “great confrontation between Christianity and Islam.” “We see it here, with Armenia, a Christian nation … in the middle of an Islamic ocean", he told French journalists at Khor Virap.
In Yerevan, Zemmour also dined with members of the local French chamber of commerce and met with Armenian Catholic Patriarch Raphael Bedros XXI before holding talks on Monday with four members of Armenia’s parliament affiliated with the ruling Civil Contract party.
Two of those lawmakers head the parliament’s standing committees on legal and foreign affairs. The parliamentary press service said they discussed with Zemmour the “development of French-Armenian relations.”
While accusing Azerbaijan of systematically destroying Armenian churches, Armenian leaders have long insisted that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is not a religious one. Armenia has also had a cordial relationship with another Muslim neighbor, Iran.
France is home to an influential Armenian community. The latter was instrumental in the December 2020 passage by both houses of the French parliament of resolutions calling on Macron’s government to recognize Karabakh as an independent republic.
Macron criticized Azerbaijan and accused Turkey of recruiting jihadist fighters from Syria for the Azerbaijani army shortly after the outbreak of last year’s war over Karabakh. The French president stated in September this year that France and Armenia enjoy a “special relationship” that should be deepened further.
Zemmour complained at the weekend that French leaders “talk but don't really defend Armenia.”