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France stoking ‘new war’ in S Caucasus by supporting separatists, Azerbaijan’s president

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has accused France of preparing the ground for a “new war” in the south Caucasus through supporting separatists, warning that Paris is “destabilizing” the region.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a decades-long territorial conflict over Azerbaijan's Nagorno-Karabakh region, a mountainous area that Baku reclaimed in September following a lightning offensive that routed Armenian forces in 24 hours and made the separatists agree to lay down weapons, under a Russian-mediated ceasefire.

“France destabilizes not only its past and present colonies, but also our region, the South Caucasus, by supporting separatist tendencies and separatists, arming Armenia, encouraging revanchist forces in Armenia and preparing the ground for unleashing a new war in our region,” said Aliyev in written comments read out by his foreign policy advisor, Hikmet Hajiyev, at an international conference - titled “Decolonization: Women’s Empowerment and Development” - in Baku on Tuesday.

The Azerbaijani president stressed that France is doing this by “pursuing a militaristic policy”, accusing Paris of continuing a policy of neocolonialism and committing “most of the bloody crimes in the colonial history of humanity.”

Aliyev added that talks about “fictitious ethnic cleansing in other countries” instead of “apologizing for the atrocities it has committed.”

France, which is home to a large Armenian diaspora, is regularly criticized by Azerbaijan for what it claims to be harboring “pro-Armenian bias” in the Caucasus countries’ territorial conflict.

Although several rounds of EU-mediated peace negotiations have been held between Baku and Yerevan, almost no progress has so far been made, yet both countries’ leaders have said a comprehensive peace agreement could be signed by the end of the year.

This is while Aliyev refused to attend peace talks with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan in Spain last month, citing purported French bias. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had been scheduled to join the European bloc’s chief Charles Michel as mediators at those talks.

France has recently agreed on future contracts with Armenia to supply it with military equipment “to help ensure its defenses,” French foreign minister Catherine Colonna said on October 3 during a visit to Yerevan.

Last week, Azerbaijan also refused to participate in normalization talks with Armenia that were planned in the United States this month over what Baku said was Washington’s “biased” position.

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