YEREVAN — French President Emmanuel Macron has demanded that Azerbaijan immediately withdraw its troops from Armenia’s border areas, which he said were occupied by them.
“Azerbaijan’s armed forces have invaded Armenian territory. They must be immediately withdrawn,” Macron wrote on Facebook.
“To the Armenian people, I once again say: France stands in solidarity and will remain so,” he added in an Armenian-language post.
Macron commented on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border standoff after speaking with Armenia’s caretaker Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian by phone.
“The President of the Republic recalled France’s commitment to the territorial integrity of Armenia and stressed the need for an immediate withdrawal of Azerbaijani troops from Armenian territory,” Macron’s office said in a statement.
It said he also expressed hope that the UN Security Council could help to “restore stability and security in this region.”
According to an Armenian readout of the phone call, Pashinian thanked Macron for his “friendly attitude” toward Armenia. It said the two men discussed ongoing efforts to end the standoff sparked by Azerbaijani troop movements along some sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Azerbaijani forces reportedly advanced several kilometers into Armenia’s Syunik Province early on May 12. According to the Armenian Defense Ministry, they also breached two other sections of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on May 13.
Azerbaijan insisted later in the day that its troops did not cross into Armenia and simply took up positions on the Azerbaijani side of the frontier which were not accessible in winter months.
The Foreign Ministry in Baku also said that the border between the two South Caucasus states has not been demarcated ever since the breakup of the Soviet Union.
The conflicting statements came as Armenian and Azerbaijani military officials met on the border to try to resolve the dispute. Representatives of Russian troops deployed in Syunik also reportedly took part in the negotiations that lasted for several hours. No concrete agreements were announced afterward.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed the rising tensions with his Armenian and Azerbaijani counterparts in separate phone calls.
Meanwhile, the United States urged both sides to show “restraint in de-escalating the situation peacefully.”
“We are closely following reports of increased tensions along a non-demarcated portion of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border,” tweeted U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price.
Armenian Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian and acting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Philip Reeker discussed the situation by phone.