Time in Yerevan: 11:07,   21 May 2024

We have a duty to help Armenia in the fight against the aggressor - Anne-Laurence Petel

We have a duty to help Armenia in the fight against the aggressor - Anne-Laurence Petel

YEREVAN, MARCH 28, ARMENPRESS. Anne-Laurence Petel, the head of the France-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group of the French National Assembly, believes that France has a role to play in strengthening Armenia's defense capability and sovereignty. According to her, France has become a key partner of Armenia in the field of defense, which allows the country to balance relations with its aggressive neighbor, Azerbaijan.

In an interview with "Armenpress," Anne-Laurence Petel discussed France's efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the prospects for cooperation between the two countries in defense, economy, and culture, and the resolution adopted by the French Senate. The resolution condemns Azerbaijan's aggression against Armenia and calls on Azerbaijan to ensure the safe return of those forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh, providing suitable conditions for their safety and well-being.

-As the head of the Friendship Group with Armenia in the French Parliament, what is the agenda for your first visit to our country?

-This is my fourth, maybe even the fifth visit to Armenia. However, it is the first time I am visiting Armenia as the chairman of the friendship group. Our delegation includes MPs from different beliefs and factions. We have a multi-party delegation, which reflects the consensus of all political parties to support Armenia.

- In January, the French parliament adopted a resolution condemning Azerbaijan's aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh. It has not received much attention. Will you elaborate, what was the content of the resolution?

-Yes, indeed. The resolution was adopted by the French Senate. It calls on Azerbaijan to ensure the right of return for the population of Nagorno-Karabakh, guaranteeing conditions that will ensure their safety and well-being. Additionally, it condemns the occupation of Armenian territories by Azerbaijan and calls for Azerbaijan to withdraw its armed forces from Armenian territory.

- It also calls to apply sanctions against Azerbaijan.

- Yes it calls for sanctions.

- What is your opinion about the cooperation between France and Armenia?

- The cooperation between France and Armenia occurs at several levels. The primary level, currently under active discussion and considered highly significant, pertains to safeguarding Armenia's borders and territorial integrity. This defense cooperation has significantly accelerated in recent months and has garnered unanimous support within the France-Armenia parliamentary friendship group, as well as across all political parties.

 As the president of the friendship group, I find the unanimity regarding France's assistance to Armenia in the field of defense very encouraging. However, when it comes to economic cooperation, it still does not align with the depth of friendship and political relations between France and Armenia.

France is currently the 11th economic partner of Armenia, but it is important to accelerate this cooperation. Some time ago, during the reburial ceremony of Missak Manouchian, during the meeting between Prime Minister Pashinyan and Gabriel Attal (the  Prime Minister of France), the parties agreed to resume the "Ambitions of France and Armenia" initiative initiated by President Macron two years ago.

 We will now closely follow the implementation of this initiative to promote it. Working groups will be established on both sides to enhance our economic cooperation. It is a very positive step that both sides have taken to expedite these economic discussions and introduce concrete mechanisms for their implementation.

There is already a structure working to coordinate these efforts, and my next step will be to discuss with the ministries ways to strengthen this cooperation and advance it. As a friendship group, we also expect the active work of the deputies in this direction.

 -How can France assist in the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict?

 Through diplomacy. It is obvious and France has done a lot in that direction. Even after 2020, France has done everything to contribute to the settlement of the conflict and, first of all, to the signing of the peace treaty between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

However, in recent months, especially since September 2023, and following the incidents that occurred on Armenian territory in 2021 and 2022, it has become clear that France has a role to play in strengthening Armenia's defense capability and sovereignty.

Indeed, it has become clear that Russia is no longer a reliable ally for Armenia. Consequently, France has emerged as a key partner for Armenia in the defense sector, enabling Armenia to maintain a more balanced relationship with its aggressive neighbor, Azerbaijan. Therefore, France's role is twofold: to contribute to peaceful conflict resolution efforts and to support the enhancement of Armenia's defense capabilities. As President Macron emphasized back in 2020, this entails identifying the aggressor and supporting the defending party in its defensive actions.

A very delicate diplomatic game is currently unfolding. Armenia is clearly expressing its desire to draw closer to Europe and distance itself from Russia. Particularly in this context, any declaration of support from France can create tension.

In reality, France supports Armenia in strengthening its institutions and realizing its aspiration to advance on the path of democracy.

That is why France is Armenia's partner, as Armenia has chosen the path of greater independence. It is not about replacing dependence on Russia with dependence on another country, but about strengthening Armenia's ability to become a true democracy with all the implications that this entails, including in the field of defense.

Indeed, Armenia is seeking partnerships in various sectors, including defense. We must be realistic: Russia is no longer an entirely reliable ally for Armenia. It did not fulfill its role during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which prompted Armenia to look for other, more reliable partners, such as France.

 Regarding Europe, we would like to draw the attention of our European partners to these issues. Armenia needs to find reliable partners, and France is one of them.

The main factor in all of this is not just closeness but also the reliability of the partnership. Russia is geographically close to Armenia and still holds significant influence not only in terms of security but also in the economy.

- How do you assess economic cooperation between Armenia and France, and what opportunities do you see?

Regarding economic cooperation between Armenia and France, it is currently modest. As mentioned earlier, France is Armenia's 11th economic partner. Despite our strong friendship and significant support in the defense sector, our economic ties and the presence of French companies in Armenia remain limited. This is an area where we need to accelerate our efforts.

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan recently met with members of the "French Enterprise Movement" organization (MEDEF), which also underscores the need for the development of economic partnership between Armenia and France. It is important to advance our economic interests. During the Prime Minister's recent visit to France, discussions also covered the possibilities of French investment in Armenian infrastructure, including participation in the construction of the North-South road and involvement in the energy sector.

- I would ask you to tell about the current initiatives aimed at strengthening cultural ties between France and Armenia.

We met with the former Minister of Culture of France at the end of October. During that meeting, several agreements on cooperation with Armenia in the field of culture were discussed.

I am going to meet with the new French Minister of Culture to take stock of these partnerships and make sure they are progressing as planned.








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