France is attempting to insert itself in the Karabakh conflict following a ceasefire agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but its involvement could increase tensions.

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry has warned several French MPs that they will be sanctioned if they enter Nagorno-Karabakh through Armenia.

The spokesperson for the country’s foreign ministry, Leyla Abdullayeva, has warned that all visits to the region, much of which was recently occupied by Armenia, must be coordinated with Baku.

“Visits to Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region, must be coordinated with the government of our country. Sanctions will be applied to persons who violate Azerbaijani legislation, and their trips to the territory of Azerbaijan in the future will be limited,” said Abdullayeva.

The move by the French MPs threatens to increase tensions just as a fragile truce between Armenia and Azerbaijan takes hold after almost seven weeks of fighting.

France, a longtime ally of Armenia, stood by Yerevan as it fought against Azerbaijan in a bid to hold the Nagorno-Karabakh region it had occupied almost 30 years ago.

The latest gambit by French politicians to interfere in the internal politics of Azerbaijan, follows an effort by the French parliament towards the end of November seeking to recognise Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent republic.

That move was condemned by Baku as "biased" and "provocative" and one that undermined France's “reputation as a fair mediator."

More recently, Belgium, another European country known for its close links to France, adopted a resolution condemning Azerbaijan for retaking its sovereign territory in the recent war.

The Armenian National Committee of Belgium welcomed the resolution, however, the move is likely to be condemned by Azerbaijan as infringing on the country’s internationally recognised borders.

Azerbaijan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jeyhun Bayramov, recently argued that “prolonged foreign occupation and the lack of accountability endanger peace and security.”

The ceasefire agreement reached between Azerbaijan and Armenia, mediated by Russia in early November, “opened a new page” in the region, said Bayramov.

As part of that deal, Armenia agreed to withdraw its forces from Azerbaijan’s territory after almost three decades. Bayramov said that the country is finally “restoring its territorial integrity and sovereignty.”

France’s reluctance to accept the peace deal could embolden Armenian nationalists who want to restart the war that left thousands dead and injured on both sides.

Moscow and Turkey were key to ensuring that Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed to a peace deal overriding the Minsk Group, which was tasked over the last 30 years to resolve the conflict and where France was a leading member.

The ensuing agreement has left France reeling from what it sees as a diplomatic loss from a region that it considers a part of its sphere of influence.

The French state media outlet, France 24, in a recent article suggested that Paris is struggling to remain relevant in the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute.

Macron, who has to contend with a large and powerful Armenian diaspora in the country, questioned the ceasefire agreement in a meeting with French Armenians, arguing, "We don't consider this ceasefire to be sufficient."

The French President went on to add that "there is a whole load of issues that cannot just be settled in a purely Turkish-Russian discussion."

Macron’s disagreement is as much about backing Armenia as it is about France being snubbed from any say in the pact.

The ceasefire agreement has been widely considered a major victory for Baku and a “bitter pill for Armenia.” While it holds, and Armenian forces have gradually pulled back from Azerbaijan’s territory, the status of Nagorno-Karabakh has not been settled and could yet be a source of conflict in the future. 

Source: TRT World