Politics 11:15 24/10/2023 Armenia

France made clear it was not going to sit on the sidelines: POLITICO

France is selling military equipment such as air defense systems to Armenia, the French government said Monday, as fears grow that Azerbaijan could follow up its seizure of Nagorno-Karabakh last month with assaults on its neighbor's territory, POLITICO reported.

The announcement on French arms comes just a month after Azerbaijan declared victory following a lightning military offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh, forcing more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians living in the region to flee their homes.

The concern — as raised by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken — is that may not be the end of Azerbaijan's regional ambitions, and all eyes are now on the Zangezur corridor, a tract of land running along Armenia's border with Iran. The danger is that another move by Baku's forces could inflame a broader conflict in the Southern Caucasus — an area where Turkey, Russia and Iran all have core strategic interests.

France, the country with Europe's largest Armenian diaspora community, made clear it was not going to sit on the sidelines.

"Even if we are not part of the same military and political alliances, we assume this defense relationship, which is based on the simple principle that you need to be able to defend yourself and your civilian population," French Armed Forces Minister Sébastien Lecornu told his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikyan at a press conference.

Increasing political support from the West comes as Armenia works to distance itself from Russia. Despite being a member of the Moscow-led CSTO military bloc, the country's calls for help from Russian President Vladimir Putin in the conflict against Azerbaijan have fallen on deaf ears, and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told POLITICO last month that it was time to stop relying on Russia for protection.

Paris started stepping up defense cooperation with Yerevan in September last year, but Azerbaijan's offensive has accelerated France's willingness to deepen military ties. Last month, France dispatched a military attaché to the French embassy in the Armenian capital.

On Monday, Armenia signed a contract to buy three Ground Master 200 radars manufactured by Thales — the same as delivered to Ukraine to fend off Russia's aggression — and another one with Safran for equipment including binoculars and sensors. Armenia and France also signed a letter of intent to kick off a process to purchase Mistral air defense systems made by MBDA.

In the coming months, the French government will send a French military official to act as a defense consultant for the Armenian executive branch on issues such as armed forces training, Lecornu said. France will also train Armenian soldiers and help Yerevan audit Armenia's air defense to identify blind spots.

"As often in the difficult times of the Armenian people, in this complex political and military situation, France and the French people are at our side, and for that I thank you infinitely," Papikyan said.



Source Panorama.am
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