Political solution must be found to guarantee rights, security of Nagorno Karabakh people – French Ambassador
YEREVAN, JULY 19, ARMENPRESS. French Ambassador to Armenia Anne Louyot has called for a political solution to end the violations of the 9 November 2020 trilateral statement and guarantee the rights and security of the residents of Nagorno Karabakh, while France will continue to do what’s possible to ensure progress, in coordination with the EU and the United States.
Ambassador Louyot, who is completing her diplomatic mission in Armenia in a few days, told ARMENPRESS in an interview that she will never forget Armenia, whose people impressed her with their resilience and ability to plan the future despite the difficult situation resulting from the 2020 war.
ARMENPRESS: Mrs. Ambassador, what do you consider to be your most significant work and achievement in Armenia during these two years in terms of strengthening and developing the Armenian-French relations?
Ambassador Louyot: As you know, France is fully committed to the peace process, and I have actively supported our special envoy to the South Caucasus, Brice Roquefeuil’s work, which he carried out at the instructions of President Macron and Minister of Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna, who visited Armenia in April this year. There’s been significant progress in our bilateral relations in the past two years, thanks to the commitment of the two governments. I am especially glad that we opened the defense mission in the embassy, aimed at deepening defense cooperation. In the economy, the roadmap signed by ministers Mirzoyan and Lemoyne in December 2021 allowed the French side to assume additional commitments, especially through supporting exports and imports in Armenia, particularly in the sector of solar energy. The French Development Agency has allocated a major state policy loan in the size of € 100 million and opened a representation in Yerevan, under the roof of the embassy, which allows diversifying and intensifying its activities in the areas of irrigation, energy, agriculture and elsewhere.
Together with the EU, we supported the strengthening of the rule of law through cooperation with the Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Ministry of Justice.
There is significant progress in our cooperation in culture and education as well. The French Institute of Armenia, officially launched in 2022, is already preparing a major cultural program and will open its doors for all audiences for French language courses in the beginning of the academic year. The ambitious France-Armenia Heritage program, which the embassy is carrying out jointly with the National Heritage Institute and the Louvre Museum, has enabled to train Armenian heritage experts and launch museum studies and restoration projects with the Erebuni Museum and the Mets Anapat of Tatev (Great Hermitage of Tatev). As a result of intensive contacts with the Armenian education ministry, we will launch an ambitious project in the beginning of the academic year aimed at strengthening the French language education in Armenia. I welcome the involvement of new provinces in the de-centralized cooperation, particularly Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes with Syunik and Hauts-de-France with Vayots Dzor, in addition to the thirty active partnerships which have allowed to develop effective partnerships in vocational education, for example with CEPFA. After all, I have to mention the embassy’s support to Armenia’s civil society as well.
ARMENPRESS: What legacy are you leaving behind for the new ambassador, what are some of the unfinished initiatives that your successor must complete?
Ambassador Louyot: New ambassadors always continue their predecessor’s work, based on the instructions by their ministry, but they also bring their own ideas and energy. I am sure that my successor Olivier Decottignies will continue the projects we started and will launch new ones.
In addition to cooperation areas that need to be strengthened, I would mention the economy, where we need additional efforts from both sides in order to involve many French enterprises who want to start activities in Armenia. Huge work has been done, particularly thanks to the EU-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) to improve Armenia’s business environment, which is commendable. I’ve maintained regular contact with French companies that are working here, whose example should encourage other enterprises to benefit from the opportunities that Armenia’s healthy economic environment has to offer. In this sense, targeted and sectoral promotion actions could be useful.
The French University of Armenia must also be strengthened, whose significant commitment jointly with the universities of Lyon and Toulouse gives the chance to provide high quality education to 2000 Armenian students. I hope that the project to relocate the university will be successful with support of the two governments. And finally, the EU programs aimed at Armenia’s development can serve to encourage the activities of French organizations in Armenia based on clear, jointly approved strategies. A stronger Armenia is a developed Armenia.
ARMENPRESS: Mrs. Ambassador, you have visited border regions, who have visited the families affected by the Azerbaijani shelling in Syunik, you’ve personally witnessed the consequences of Azerbaijan’s aggression. What is your assessment about Azerbaijan’s conduct, and what kind of a response should the international community give, and are you satisfied with the reaction thus far?
Ambassador Louyot: I have indeed visited the villages affected by Azerbaijan’s attacks in September 2022, in Gegharkunik, Vayots Dzor and Syunik I was able to witness the sufferings of the peaceful population, whom I wanted to express my solidarity with. France supports the consistent efforts of the EU and the United States in this direction. The EU civilian mission, launched on 23 January, 2023, is contributing to the peace process in border regions through monitoring works. The result of this monitoring contributes to the EU’s mediation efforts, but we must further strengthen efforts in order for the territorial sovereignty and human rights to be respected.
The close and permanent consultations between our two governments and President Macron and Prime Minister Pashinyan reflects our commitment and desire to expand the international community’s support for a fair and lasting peace. We are working in this direction.
ARMENPRESS: Azerbaijan has completely blocked the Lachin Corridor and the Armenians of Artsakh are facing a humanitarian crisis for a long time now. Although the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairmanship is factually not functioning today, given the fact that France is a co-chair of this structure, what role could it have for resolving the issue? How do you personally envision the solution to the issue?
Ambassador Louyot: We’ve condemned the blockade of Lachin Corridor, which is seriously harming the population of Nagorno Karabakh, since December, and we have called for the implementation of the International Court of Justice ruling on restoring traffic along the corridor. We welcome the ICRC efforts aimed at mitigating the consequences of the humanitarian crisis resulting from the blockade, but a political solution must be found to end the violations of the 9 November 2020 statement and to guarantee the rights and security of the residents of Nagorno Karabakh. The global instability resulting from the aggression unleashed by Russia against Ukraine doesn’t ease the work, but we continue to be mobilized. That’s why France, a permanent member of the UN Security Council, initiated UNSC sessions in September and December of 2022 on Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. France, in coordination with the EU and US, will continue to do what’s possible to ensure progress in the negotiations process.
ARMENPRESS: Mrs. Ambassador, summing up your diplomatic mission in Armenia, what has impressed you the most in Armenia during your tenure?
Ambassador Louyot: Being assigned to Armenia has special importance for a French diplomat, due to the ancient ties uniting our two peoples, which, as Anatole France said, belong to the same family. The pantheonization of Missak and Melinee Manouchian, ethnic Armenians who were French by conviction, symbolizes the closeness of our two nations. I was especially impressed by the resilience of the Armenian people, ability to make future plans despite the difficult situation resulting from the 2020 war. I highly appreciate the unique hospitality of Armenians, their ties to their history and wonderful heritage, as well as openness for other cultures and faiths. The Armenian people can be a link even between countries which sometimes have contradicting interests. This is an important ability, which I hope it will remain committed to.
ARMENPRESS: And finally, Mrs. Ambassador, you are completing your diplomatic mission in Armenia sooner than planned, and France has already named a new ambassador. The embassy had explained that your early departure has to do with personal reasons, but since there are various rumors on this issue claiming that you have been recalled, please clarify the reason of your early departure and whether this has been exclusively your personal decision.
Ambassador Louyot: In the atmosphere of instability caused by the aggression unleashed by Russia in Ukraine, disinformation is one of the weapons which is widely used against democratic countries. France’s commitment in Armenia is probably causing discontent, which can explain the generated fake news about our activities, my persona, and representatives of French enterprises in Armenia. The rumors about me are simply defamation, which is criminally liable in conditions of the rule of law. Therefore I have filed a complaint, expecting that justice will be served and a verdict will be issued. I am sad that I have to leave Armenia due to personal and family reasons after very rich and full two years. I am leaving many friends here and I am departing with the best memories. Be sure, I will never forget your country.
Interview by Anna Grigoryan
Photos by Mkhitar Khachatryan