Azerbaijan has strongly condemned France’s recent reported shipment of military equipment to Armenia, according to local media, which also reported that Baku was preparing to purchase more Israeli-made air defense systems in a deal worth $1.2 billion.
Azerbaijani media outlets reported that France has sent a “significant number” of Bastion armored personnel carriers and related equipment to Armenia via Georgia.
Over the weekend, some Azerbaijani media outlets also published photographs and videos purportedly showing the unloading and storage of the armored vehicles and their spare parts at the Georgian port of Poti.
In a statement on Monday, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry spokesperson Aykhan Hajizade said that the transfer of military equipment to Armenia “only bolsters Armenia’s military potential and its ability to carry out destructive operations in the region.”
“France is pursuing wrong interests in the region. Armenia and France must discontinue their policy of armament and militarization in the region. These countries need to realize at last that there is no alternative to peace and cooperation in the region,” Hajizadeh added.
Late last month Armenia and France signed a number of agreements on cooperation in the military sphere. Sebastien Lecornu, France’s defense minister, confirmed that his country would be delivering three GM200 radars and Mistral missiles to Yerevan as part of those deals. According to French officials, Paris will also help Armenia modernize its military.
Armenia’s defense ministry spokesperson Aram Torosyan told News.am on Monday that he could not disclose any information on whether French military equipment was brought into Armenia.
“Apart from the official announcements and statements regarding cooperation between Armenia and France in the defense sector, we cannot disclose any additional information at this time,” Torosyan told News.am.
Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to France Leyla Abdullayeva last week confronted Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan during a panel discussion held as part of the Paris Peace Conference also on the issue of French military supplies to Armenia.
Pashinyan replied, by saying: “Every sovereign country has the right to have an army and acquire weapons… Azerbaijan also buys a huge amount of weapons. Azerbaijan’s budget for acquiring weapons is three times more than that of Armenia.”
In Paris Pashinyan again voiced hope for a peace accord with Azerbaijan in the coming months if Baku “reaffirms the three principles that have already been agreed upon.”
In his speech earlier at the conference Pashinyan outlined those principles, including mutual recognition of each other’s Soviet-era borders, a corresponding mechanism for delimitating the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier and agreement that future transport arrangements in the region will respect the principles of “sovereignty, jurisdiction, reciprocity and equality of all countries.”
The issue of normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan will be on the agenda when European Union foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday, France’s foreign minister Catherine Colonna said in a press briefing.
She said it is imperative that the EU foreign ministers council “to clearly articulate its support for Armenia—Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
To this end, Colonna emphasized the importance of strengthening the mandate and capabilities of the EU mission in Armenia, as well as providing assistance to Yerevan through the European fund.
“I believe it is important for our council to succinctly and resolutely adopt this measure today,” said Colonna referring to the Monday’s meeting. “It is time to do that since we have been talking about this for several weeks now.”