Armenia, France establish long-term cooperation, including defense field: Ambassador's interview

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Armenia, France establish long-term cooperation, including defense field: Ambassador's interview

YEREVAN, MARCH 6, ARMENPRESS. France expresses concern regarding Azerbaijan's violations of Armenia's territorial integrity. France's defense cooperation with Armenia is exclusively focused on defending Armenia. The two countries are establishing long-term cooperation in the defense sector.

Armenpress has interviewed the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Armenia, Olivier Decottignies, covering Armenia-France relations, defense cooperation, upcoming visits from France and other issues.

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The interview is presented below:

- Mr. Ambassador, Armenia-France relations have gained a new quality. Last year, the two countries signed documents on defense cooperation. For the first time in history, the French defense minister visited Armenia. What does this mean? How would you assess the visit? Will this cooperation be long-term, and will it deepen or expand?

It is actually not only defense cooperation. Over the past 2-3 weeks, we had meetings between the foreign ministers of both countries in Munich. The Prime Minister of Armenia, Mr. Pashinyan, was in Paris and attended the pantheonization ceremony of Missak Manouchian, a famous resistance fighter of Armenian origin.

He also met with the President and the Prime Minister. And, of course, the landmark visit of the Minister of the French Armed Forces to Armenia was the first visit for the Minister of the French Armed Forces and also for a minister of a NATO member country. We have had diplomatic relations with Armenia for 32 years. Diplomatic relations with independent Armenia were established on February 24, 1992, but they have never been as intensive and confident.

Yes, we are building long-term cooperation, including cooperation in the field of defense, it is not only about military procurement, which is of course important, but also about training, including the training of senior Armenian officers. It's about advising.

When have an agreement between two military academies of two countries, such as was signed during the visit of the Minister of the French Armed Forces, you are obviously building for the long term.

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- Mr. Ambassador, will it expand?

- We are listening to the needs of our Armenian friends.

- Azerbaijan actively buys weapons from Turkey, Israel and other countries, while the President of Azerbaijan accuses France of arming Armenia and contributing to the escalation in the South Caucasus region. Certain cycles also express opinion, that the European Union represented by France wants to weaken Russia's influence in the South Caucasus. How would you react to this, what interest does France have in defense cooperation with Armenia?

- Unlike those certain cycles that you refer to, we do not think in terms of spheres of influence, we think in terms of the rights of each nation to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity. And it is actually not only a French concern. Many times the past few years, neighboring country of Armenia like Iran, have expressed concern about Armenia's sovereignty and territorial integrity .

We disagree with Iran on many issues, but this is one issue we agree on. And I think actually all UN member states should agree on that because under the UN Charter, all UN member states recognize and ought to support the integrity and sovereignty of other member states. That is a general obligation.

When it comes to the Azerbaijani stated concerns, they can be sure that the type of cooperation and the equipment that we are providing to Armenia are aimed at defending the country; it is purely defensive. Let me give you a good example: when we talk about air defense, if you don't enter the airspace of Armenia, you will never face the air defense of Armenia; it is a defensive capability.

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- So can we say that defense cooperation is about Armenia's sovereignty?

It is about the sovereignty of Armenia and the protection of its territory and people. It was clearly stated from the very beginning that all that we are providing—weapons, equipment, training—is consistent with that goal.

- The Prime Minister of Armenia recently announced that Azerbaijan is preparing for a new war against Armenia. There have been negotiations and meetings with the participation of France, what role can France play to prevent the predicted new war ?

- There are some concerning statements coming from Baku. France has played an important role in helping to achieve some key elements in the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan, in particular, what was agreed between the two parties in Prague in October 2022, the mutual recognition of each other's territorial integrity and the Alma-Ata Declaration as a basis for dealing with border issues.

This is our contribution already. Now we support all efforts under the umbrella of the European Union and the United States to reach a durable stable and just peace agreement. This is our position, and anything goes in that direction has our support.

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- Mr. Ambassador, Armenia has always declared that it is ready and interested in peace with Azerbaijan, but bearing in mind Aliyev's way of breaking the agreements, it is always stated that an international guarantee is needed for the implementation of the peace agreement. According to you, who and what can be that guarantee? What role can the EU, especially France play in this regard?

It takes two to tango. First of all, we need two parties to genuinely be willing to achieve an agreement. And of course, over the past 30 years, we've come to a certain confidence that third-party support and guarantees are needed.

In our view, American and European mediations are the most reliable guarantees. And we have seen, when it comes to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, that the guarantee system put in place in 2020 did not work. We must also learn lessons from that.

- Mr. Ambassador, how do you imagine the future cooperation between Armenia and France, especially in what areas do you see the potential for deepening cooperation, in particular, what about economic cooperation?

- The cooperation we have with Armenia is certainly not limited to military matters; it is the latest addition to this cooperation. Many actors are involved in this collaboration: the French government, French government agencies, French companies, French non-governmental organizations, and Diaspora organizations in France. All are trying to take into account the current strategic situation of Armenia.

My advice to them, and I meet with them regularly, is to focus on the most strategic sectors and the most strategic areas of Armenia, even though they are under the greatest threat. If you have a strategic approach, then there is no small project or small question. Everything is relevant, useful, and impactful as long as it is thought out strategically. So, in that regard, one priority that was discussed during the meeting between Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan and our President in Paris a couple of weeks ago is the infrastructure in the fields of energy, transport, and connectivity. Reinforcing and supporting Armenia also means reinforcing the infrastructure.

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- Mr. Ambassador, are there any high-level visit from France planned to Armenia in the nearest future?

- Our two foreign ministers just met a few weeks ago. It was neither in France nor in Armenia, so I guess there will be some visits from both sides in the near future. And, as you know, the Prime Minister of Armenia has invited the Prime Minister of France to visit Armenia. Visits are important because they allow to make significant progress and take stock of what we have done together.

But there are many more visits than just official visits that I would like us to focus on. Over the weekend, two very prominent French surgeons were in Armenia working with Armenians. They taught very vital gestures that can help save someone suffering from hemorrhage. Thirty percent of Armenian casualties in recent conflicts were inflicted from hemorrhage. Famous surgeons come from France devoting time in helping Armenia. And we have such cases in all fields. Important visits are to come, but there are no small visits as well.

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-Mr. Ambassador, would you like to add anything?

- I would like to have a word of thanks. I am very grateful to Armenia for the warm reception extended to myself, my team, and the French representatives from various fields. Over the centuries of contact, a deep sense of confidence and friendship has developed in the relations between our two countries and peoples, which makes our work truly more impactful and meaningful. So, thank you to all Armenians who welcome us in this way.

Interview by Anna Grigoryan

Photo by Hayk Badalyan

Cameraman: Hovhannes Mkrtchyan.


Armenia, Yerevan, 0002, Martiros Saryan 22


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