France asks Azerbaijan to restore ‘unhindered’ movement on land link

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France’s foreign minister on Friday urged Azerbaijan to restore “unhindered movement on the Lachin corridor,” the only land link between Armenia and the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.

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Azerbaijan established a checkpoint at the entry of the corridor on Sunday, a move that Armenia denounced as a breach of the latest ceasefire between the two arch-foes.

France’s Catherine Colonna said during a press conference in Yerevan that Armenia's territorial integrity must be respected.

Her Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan meanwhile said free movement “should be restored.”

Colonna was visiting Armenia after first meeting with officials in Baku, where she was hosted by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.

“The purpose of the visit is to reaffirm France’s support for the Armenian government and people,” Colonna said.

She said it was important for Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume negotiations to secure a resolution to their decades-long standoff.

“We encourage you to resolutely take this path,” Colonna said, adding this was “the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace.”

She acknowledged this was a “difficult path.”

She said Paris was ready to back Armenia in the process, “alongside the European Union and the United States, in coordination with the OSCE and the United Nations.”

Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over the mountainous enclave of Karabakh that have left tens of thousands dead.

Moscow brokered a ceasefire after the latest bout of fighting in 2020 and posted peacekeepers along the Lachin corridor.

With Moscow bogged down in Ukraine and unwilling to strain ties with Azerbaijan’s key ally Turkey, the United States and European Union have sought to steer a thaw in ties.

Asked whether he wanted negotiations hosted by Europe and Washington or Russia, Mirzoyan said there was “no difference between the platforms.”

“We are grateful to all the platforms,” he added, as he is due to travel to Washington for a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

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