France wants international supervision to implement a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict amid concern that Russia and Turkey could strike a deal to exclude Western powers from future peace talks, the presidency said on Thursday.
Paris and Washington co-chair the Minsk Group overseeing the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute with Moscow, but they were not involved in the deal signed by Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan earlier this month to end six weeks of fighting over the enclave.
Since the ceasefire, Russia has held talks with Turkey, a key ally of Azerbaijan and a harsh critic of the Minsk Group, and its parliament has approved the deployment of Turkish troops to the region.
“The end of the fighting should now allow the resumption of good faith negotiations in order to protect the population of Nagorno-Karabakh and ensure the return of tens of thousands of people who have fled their homes in recent weeks in good security conditions,” President Emmanuel Macron’s office said after calls with the president of Azerbaijan and Armenia’s prime minister.
France’s population includes between 400,000 and 600,000 people of Armenian origin. Macron has been careful not to back a side in the conflict, but has faced criticism at home that he did not do enough to help Yerevan.
“We want the Minsk Group to play its role in defining the surveillance [of the ceasefire],” a French presidential official told reporters.
The official said Paris was pushing for “international supervision” of the ceasefire to allow the return of refugees, organise the return of foreign fighters, especially from Syria, and to start talks on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Relations between France and Turkey have deteriorated in recent months. Paris has accused Ankara of worsening the crisis in the Caucuses.
“We understand that the Russians are talking to the Turks regarding a possible formula, which we don’t want, that would replicate the Astana [process] to divide their roles in this sensitive region,” the official said.
“We can’t have on one side, Minsk and the other, Astana. At one point, the Russians have to make a choice.”
The Astana forum enabled Russia and Turkey to discuss between them how to handle the Syrian conflict and brush aside Western powers.