I came to Armenia to restore the old friendship: Newly elected mayor of Villeurbanne visits Armenia

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I came to Armenia to restore the old friendship: Newly elected mayor of Villeurbanne visits Armenia

YEREVAN, APRIL 17, ARMENPRESS. Cédric Van Styvendael, the newly elected mayor of Villeurbanne, France,has visited Armenia with the aim of bolstering Armenian-French friendly relations as much as possible.

In an interview with "Armenpress" the mayor of Villeurbanne emphasized that the previous mayor was also active; as a member of parliament, he contributed to the Armenian Genocide recognition by France.

“First of all, I will tell you why I am here. I am the newly elected mayor of Villeurbanne, elected for the first time. I came to Armenia to restore the old friendship..." said the mayor, emphasizing that all mayors from France should visit Armenia.

Speaking about the goals of his visit to Armenia, Cedric Van Stevendael mentioned that Villeurbanne and Abovyan have been sister cities since 1992.

"We have come to sign a declaration to deepen the connection between the two cities. Yesterday, we signed that declaration with the team of the Abovyan community hall," he said.

He clarified that he decided to re-sign the declaration only recently, stating that he monitored events in Armenia and understood the country's need for assistance. He emphasized that having more supporters would facilitate the resolution of the challenges.

"In France, Local Self-Governments are very careful when talking about politics and making decisions, so as not to interfere in other issues and assist Armenia at the level of municipal authorities," said the mayor.

Speaking about other reasons for his visit to Armenia, Styvendael recalled: "The city of Villeurbanne had also maintained good relations with the city of Shushi, with which we had a signed declaration. This relationship was reaffirmed after 2020 with another group's visit. In 2021, our delegation traveled to Nagorno Karabakh and met the mayor of Shushi in Stepanakert," he said, underscoring the significance of the meetings he had with individuals forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh during his visit.

He also mentioned that the city of Villeurbanne has always been active in raising the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Speaking about the forcibly displaced of Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh and their acceptance by the Republic of Armenia, the mayor specifically mentioned: "We were surprised that Armenia, being a small country, was able to accommodate one hundred thousand Armenians forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh in just 5 days. We understood that the Armenians did not leave their brothers and sisters alone," he said, adding that France has not abandoned the forcibly displaced people and continues providing its support.

"France has made three statements at the UN regarding aid. It continues to support those forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh, allocating $30 million to Armenia," he emphasized.

He also highlighted his endorsement of French President Emmanuel Macron's policy to be correct in terms of this and in Armenian-French relations overall.

The mayor of Villeurbanne emphasized the role of EU observers in Armenia and highlighted the significance of the recently signed defense agreements between Armenia and France, noting their unprecedented nature.

Referring to the meetings he had with forcibly displaced people from Nagorno-Karabakh during his visit, he noted that the Republic of Armenia is making every effort to ensure that the forcibly displaced Armenians stay in Armenia and do not leave.

"Many Nagorno-Karabakh residents are deeply attached to their land, and during our meetings, they ask us to advocate for their right to return to their homeland in international courts," emphasized Styvendael, adding that everything should be done so that they stay in Armenia, so that it will be easier for those who want to return to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Touching on the areas in which cooperation between the cities of Villeurbanne and Abovyan can be developed, the mayor highlighted that the main focus areas include education, the promotion of the French language, personnel exchange, and addressing qualification issues.

"Not long ago, we visited a French school, where we explored ways to engage the 6,000 Nagorno-Karabakh citizens who found refuge in the city of Abovyan in our programs," he emphasized.

Concluding his speech, Cédric Van Styvendael shared his impressions of his visit to Armenia: "Should come to Armenia. The people here are very kind, friendly, and open-hearted, and I would like to be friends with them. I'm not saying these words just to please or flatter; the people here are genuinely open-hearted."

Davit Mamyan




Armenia, Yerevan, 0002, Martiros Saryan 22


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