French President Emmanuel Macron has urged Azerbaijan to withdraw its troops from “the sovereign territory of Armenia” after a series of recent border incidents between the two South Caucasus countries heightened regional tensions.
Hosting Armenia’s caretaker Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian for talks in Paris on June 1, Macron also called on the two neighbors to demarcate their border through negotiations and without “any fait accompli on the ground.”
Tensions have been running high since Yerevan accused Azerbaijani troops last month of crossing several kilometers over its southern border in what it said was a bid to stake a claim to territory. Azerbaijan insisted that its troops simply took up positions on its side of the frontier.
The rivals have since blamed each other for a number of border incidents, stoking fears of fresh regional instability following last year’s war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The fresh tensions come months after the two countries ended a six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh that claimed at least 6,900 lives. The conflict ended in November 2020 with a Moscow-brokered cease-fire that saw Armenia ceding swaths of territory that ethnic Armenians had controlled for decades. The truce is being monitored by some 2,000 Russian peacekeepers.
Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been controlled by ethnic Armenians since the early 1990s. Internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the OSCE’s so-called Minsk Group have failed to resolve the dispute.
The ongoing escalation between Yerevan and Baku comes in the run-up to Armenia’s snap parliamentary elections on June 20.
“The Azerbaijani troops must leave Armenia’s sovereign territory,” Macron said after greeting Pashinian at the presidential Elysee Palace.
“I am calling on the parties to return to the positions held” before the current surge in tensions,” said the French president, adding that France is “ready to facilitate discussions.”
“We stand in solidarity with Armenia and we will continue to do so,” he added in a statement to the press made before a lunch meeting with the Armenian caretaker prime minister.
Pashinian thanked Macron for having “spoken the language of truth since the outset of the crisis.”
In a statement on May 28, the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group — France, Russia, and the United States — said “the use or threat of force to resolve border disputes is not acceptable.”
They called on both Armenia and Azerbaijan to “take immediate steps, including the relocation of troops, to de-escalate the situation and to begin negotiations to delimitate and demarcate the border peacefully.”