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French FM Visits Yerevan After Pledge To Help Resolve Karabakh Conflict

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (left) meets with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian in Yerevan on May 28.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian (left) meets with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian in Yerevan on May 28.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian has met in Yerevan with Armenian Foreign Minister Zograb Mnatsakanian, a day after Le Drian announced French plans to intensify efforts to resolve the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Speaking at a joint press conference after their talks in Yerevan on May 28, Mnatsakanian announced that French President Emmanuel Macron plans to visit Yerevan during the autumn of 2018 for talks with Armenia’s leadership.

Mnatsakanian said he and Le Drian discussed the agenda of Macron’s visit during their May 28 meeting.

Le Drian, who is on a tour of South Caucasus nations, said Paris "will be near Yerevan to help build democracy."

On May 27, during a visit to Baku, Le Drian said France hopes “that in the coming months we will work more actively to search for the ways of settling” Yerevan’s dispute with Baku over Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

Le Drian said the current situation is “not an option" and added that "France seeks peace and stability in the region."

Azerbaijan's foreign minister, Elmar Mammadyarov, told reporters that he and Le Drian held substantive discussions on the issue.

“We adhere to the strategy of resolving the conflict peacefully, and I am sure that France as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group will continue to help resolve this situation,” Mammadyarov said.

Yerevan has long insisted that any talks on solving the dispute include the ethnic Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh, something Baku has opposed.

Le Drian also met in Baku with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, with the Azeri press service saying that along with the Karabakh issue, energy cooperation between Paris and Baku was discussed.

Aliyev is scheduled to visit Paris in July, and Le Drian said Macron will visit Azerbaijan by the end of the year, although he did not provide details.

Nagorno-Karabakh, populated mainly by ethnic Armenians, declared independence from Azerbaijan during a 1988-94 war that claimed an estimated 30,000 lives and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

A cease-fire was called in 1994, but decades of internationally mediated negotiations with the involvement of the OSCE's Minsk Group have failed to result in a resolution. The Minsk Group is co-chaired by France, Russia, and the United States.

In a statement marking Azerbaijan’s centennial Republic Day and the 100th anniversary of the short-lived First Armenian Republic, the U.S. State Department said on May 28 that it remains “committed to finding a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and urges the parties to resume intensive negotiations as soon as possible.”

With reporting by RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service, Interfax, France Diplomatie, and Azeri News
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