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Another French Presidential Candidate Visits Armenia


Armenia - Armenian President Armen Sarkissian meets with Valerie Pecresse, a Fench presidential candidate and head of Ile de France region, December 21, 2021.

Valerie Pecresse, a French conservative politician emerging as President Emmanuel Macron’s main challenger in next year’s presidential elections, pledged continued support for Armenia when she visited the country on Tuesday.

Pecresse met with President Armen Sarkissian, Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan, parliament speaker Alen Simonian and Catholicos Garegin II, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Official Armenian press releases on the separate meetings indicated that she was received in her capacity as head of the Ile de France region of greater Paris.

The region is home to a large part of France’s influential Armenian community numbering some 600,000 people. French presidential candidates will vie for their votes during the tight presidential race.

A new poll released over the weekend showed Pecresse as the likely challenger to Macron in the second round of the elections slated for April 2022. They were trailed by two far-right candidates, Eric Zemmour and Marine Le Pen.

Zemmour chose Armenia for his first campaign trip which he took a week ago. The former journalist known for his controversial statements against Islam and immigration urged strong Western support for what he described as a Christian nation situated “in the middle of an Islamic ocean.”

Unlike Pecresse, Zemmour was not received by high-ranking Armenian officials. He met with several senior parliamentarians representing Armenia’s ruling party.

Armenia -- French far-right party "Reconquete!" leader, media pundit and candidate for the 2022 French presidential election Eric Zemmour in downtown Yerevan on December 12, 2021.
Armenia -- French far-right party "Reconquete!" leader, media pundit and candidate for the 2022 French presidential election Eric Zemmour in downtown Yerevan on December 12, 2021.

During her trip Pecresse was accompanied by former French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier and Bruno Retailleau, who leads the conservative Les Republicains party’s group in the French Senate. Pecresse won early this month the opposition party’s primary to be its presidential candidate.

Sarkissian described her as a “good friend of Armenia and the Armenian people.” The Pecresse campaign’s Twitter page said they spoke for two hours to “evoke the strong ties between Armenia and France.”

The president and the other Armenian leaders also discussed with Pecresse the aftermath of last year’s war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

While in Yerevan Pecresse laid flowers at the Armenian genocide memorial and the Yerablur military cemetery where hundreds of Armenian soldiers killed during the six-week war were buried.

“What happened to Armenia last year is a warning that we would be wrong to assume that this does not concern us,” Julien Neny, a French journalist covering the trip, quoted her as saying afterwards.

Pecresse also told reporters that if elected president she will organize “an international conference in Paris in support of Armenia.”

FRANCE -- French President Emmanuel Macron, left, welcomes Armenian acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian before a working lunch at the Elysee Palace in Paris, June 1, 2021
FRANCE -- French President Emmanuel Macron, left, welcomes Armenian acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian before a working lunch at the Elysee Palace in Paris, June 1, 2021

Her visit coincided with Macron’s 44th birthday anniversary. In a congratulatory message sent on Tuesday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian wished the French president “unwavering will, strength and unshakable faith to lead the French people to new victorious horizons.”

“I assure you that in that high mission, Armenia stands with your and friendly France, ready to defend the common values, universal rights and civilizational heritage that unite us,” Pashinian wrote.

Macron and Pashinian most recently met in Brussels on December 15 during trilateral talks with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

“We will never abandon the Armenians,” Macron tweeted after the meeting. “We will always seek solutions for a lasting peace.”

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