Azerbaijani troops must leave Armenian territory, says France’s Macron

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French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday urged Azerbaijani troops to leave Armenian territory after a series of incidents in the last weeks raised fears of a fresh surge in fighting between the Caucasus foes after a six-week war last year.

Hosting Armenia’s caretaker Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for talks in Paris, Macron said a “lot still needs to be done” to ensure the durability of the ceasefire after the 2020 conflict.

France is seen as one of Yerevan’s closest allies and has repeatedly pledged support for Armenia after its defeat in the conflict.

It is also wary of the support given by NATO member Turkey to Azerbaijan in the war.

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“The demarcation of the frontier should take place exclusively as part of a negotiation and without any fait accomplis on the ground and, above all, without the use of force,” Macron said.

“Azerbaijani troops must leave the sovereign territory of Armenia,” he added, without giving details on which positions they were holding.

Tensions have been running high since Pashinyan accused Azerbaijan’s military last month of crossing three kilometers over its southern border to “lay siege” to lake Sev Lich, which is shared by the two countries.

The skirmishes come in the run-up to snap parliamentary elections in Armenia on June 20, which Pashinyan announced under pressure from opposition protesters.

Macron urged the parties to return to the positions they held before the current surge in tensions, adding that “France is ready to help with discussions.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan clashed for six weeks last year over control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a mountainous enclave of ethnic Armenians in Azerbaijan controlled for decades by separatists.

The war ended with Armenia losing swathes of territory it had controlled in Azerbaijan, sparking a political crisis in the country over what many considered a humiliating defeat.

Pashinyan praised France’s support in the crisis.

“France and Armenia have privileged relations. From the start of the crisis, President Macron spoke the language of truth and this voice was heard,” he said.

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