France, Russia stand on opposite sides of Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

France  AP - Sergei Grits
© AP - Sergei Grits

Azerbaijan has accused France of threatening the country after Paris recalled its ambassador and accused Baku of damaging relations. Meanwhile Russian peacekeepers have begun withdrawing from the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave, which Azerbaijan recaptured from Armenian separatists last year.

Azerbaijan on Wednesday accused France of pressuring and threatening the country after Paris recalled its ambassador, Anne Boillon, and accused Baku of damaging bilateral ties.

Azerbaijan has slammed France on multiple occasions over what it sees as the country's support for rival Armenia in a long-running stand-off between the neighbours.

"France's actions over the past three and a half years have seriously put under question the efforts to normalise relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia based on sovereignty and territorial integrity, and contributed to the escalation of the situation," according to a statement by the Azeri foreign ministry.

"It is clear as day that the actions of France, which is extensively arming Armenia and promoting militarism in the region, do not serve peace."

Rising tensions

French President Emmanuel Macron had recalled Boillon to Paris to discuss ties with Azerbaijan, France's foreign ministry said.

"France has decided to recall its ambassador to Azerbaijan for consultations due to unilateral actions taken by Azerbaijan in recent months, which are damaging to our two countries," according to a statement shared on social media.

Tensions between Baku and Paris rose as a result of Azerbaijan's actions in Nagorno-Karabakh and France's support for Armenia. Baku accused France of seeking to "fuel tensions in the South Caucasus".

A French national, Martin Ryan, was arrested on 4 December last year on suspicion of "espionage", according to Azerbaijan authorities.

Paris has criticised his detention as "arbitrary", a claim that Baku called "null and void".

Russian withdrawal

France – home to a large Armenian diaspora – in February agreed to sell arms to Armenia and train Armenian officers as it continues to boost military ties with the country.

It comes as Yerevan seeks to reduce its dependence on Moscow, traditionally Armenia's ally.

Russia has peacekeeping troops in the region, but they did nothing to prevent Azerbaijan's army retaking Nagorno-Karabakh last September.

On Wednesday, peacekeepers began withdrawing from the enclave.

Azerbaijani state media reported that Russian troops had begun leaving positions held as part of a Moscow-brokered 2020 ceasefire between Baku and Yerevan.

They posted videos and photos showing armoured vehicles with Russian flags purportedly driving out of the territory.

Asked about the reports, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said they were true.


Russia had deployed a 2,000-strong peacekeeping force as part of a deal to end a six-week offensive in 2020 that saw Azerbaijani forces seize swathes of Nagorno-Karabakh and the surrounding areas.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said recently that Yerevan has de facto suspended its participation in the Moscow-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation, a defence alliance that also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

He has repeatedly criticised Russia for not stepping in to support his country in the face of what he says is Azerbaijani aggression.

And, against Moscow's wishes, Yerevan has joined the International Criminal Court, a move which obligates it to arrest Russian President Vladimir Putin should he visit Armenia after the court issued a warrant against the Russian leader.

Arch-foes Armenia and Azerbaijan are currently trying to broker a broader peace agreement that could see Baku gain control of yet more disputed territory.

Clashes and shootouts between troops stationed along the mountainous border are relatively common.

(with newswires)