It was very interesting to watch thousands of Azerbaijani fans rooting in the World Cup final for faraway Argentina and against France. Mostly for political reasons, because of France’s anti-Azerbaijani position.
I see little practical sense in a politicized sporting interest of this kind. But on the other hand, if people need an outlet for their emotions, so be it. After all, big-time sports are basically a continuation of big-time politics, whatever anyone may say.
The football is over but the problem is still there. France continues to be the main conductor of the Armenian agenda. And we need a sound plan to deal with this fact, not football emotions.
To do this, we need to understand the real resources and motives of the French establishment in our issue. We are talking about only the establishment here, for a very simple reason: ordinary French people have basically no interest in foreign policy and they are largely a nation focused on internal French issues. They simply do not care about what is happening on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.
Accordingly, France’s cordial relations with Armenia are the relations with the French elite. And things are somewhat different here. The Armenian diaspora capital, the presence of a large number of Armenians among French politicians, businessmen, lawyers, and artists are all a reality. At the same time, most of the rich and influential Armenians are well integrated into the French “high” society and are considered French, which is why they wield considerable influence.
This explains why the French parliament adopts the anti-Azerbaijani resolution so easily and without any resistance. The people do not care, but the elite has a vested interest, and there is a consensus within it.
In order to design an effective strategy for dealing with this situation, Azerbaijan needs to accurately assess both the domestic and foreign political situation in France.
What are the main resources France has? First and foremost, undoubtedly, its membership in the UN Security Council. France is probably the weakest, but nevertheless a permanent member of the Security Council. Secondly, after Brexit, France has strengthened its position in the European Union. And while it is Germany that plays the leading role in economic issues in the EU, France is trying to take the lead in foreign policy issues. Germany has not particularly gotten in its way here so far.
French business has considerable interests abroad, including our region. The French army has not had any significant achievements to boast of in the last 50 years. One way or another, when it comes to security, France hides behind the broad backs of other Western partners.
French policy in our region is built on regular attempts to “get a foot in the door” of major processes and projects or to hinder the implementation of projects in which it is not involved. At the same time, France does not have any significant resources in the South Caucasus and usually seeks to build temporary alliances with third forces.
The main vector of French policy in the Caucasus is anti-Turkish. A vivid example of France’s approaches today are its active attempts to slow down the Zangezur corridor and promote the Iran-Armenia-Georgia corridor. This obviously involves active consultations with Iran, often contrary to the official position of the West on the sanctions. The “anti-Zangezur” position is dictated mainly by anti-Turkish sentiments and the understanding that Armenia, after the establishment of lasting peace and the opening of communications, will inevitably join the orbit of Turkish interests, which is strategically inevitable and good for Armenia itself.
The project of the Iran-Armenia-Georgia corridor itself is an economically unjustifiable bluff. No significant cargoes will go through this corridor. The purpose is to stop the Zangezur corridor from happening and to stop Armenia from drifting towards Turkey and Azerbaijan. In other words, France does not want a real peace agreement, but rather a simmering conflict, as this gives it more opportunities to interfere in issues in the Caucasus.
Once again, we should remember that France does not have enough resources of its own for this policy. And it is trying to use mainly EU resources, using the passivity of most of the other member states. Essentially, to use the EU for its own narrow purposes in the Caucasus.
Now, what should we do about it? There are several answers.
First of all, we should not delude ourselves. Whether France loses or wins the World Cup is of no importance to us. We should also remember that we are not dealing with the anti-Azerbaijani position of the French people, but with a classic conspiracy of the elites. We must accept the fact that Armenians will always have a great influence on French politics.
And we should reformulate the question, asking: “Does this policy that damages France’s relations with the leading state of the Caucasus, Azerbaijan, serve the interests of France?” Isn’t this policy harmful and opportunistic, aimed at politicians getting electoral contributions and votes from the Armenian diaspora? That is, at short-term interests?
The second question is: “To what extent does this position serve Armenia’s long-term interests?” After all, France, muddying the waters in the region, will not be able to gain a foothold here. But Azerbaijan and Turkey are here, and Armenia will end up face to face with us. Some pragmatic Armenian politicians and journalists have also been asking this question in recent months, although they remain in the minority.
Thirdly, we need to work consistently with the rest of the EU member states, demanding that they take a more active stand on the Caucasus. After all, Azerbaijan is much more important for almost all of them than Armenia. Be it issues of energy supply, transit or security, Azerbaijan is a regional player, while Armenia is still a geographical dead end, through a fault of its own. It is necessary to consistently explain to all EU countries that the use of EU institutions by France for its narrow political purposes is illegitimate and harmful to them.
Fourthly, the Azerbaijani and, to an extent, Turkish public message to the French media and public should be as follows: the French people have no enemies in the Caucasus. French business has far more interests in Azerbaijan than it will ever have in Armenia. But French politicians, driven by opportunistic interests, are making waves, thus damaging France itself, its business and foreign policy.
Finally, another important element of our position is that the current stance of the French government, built on medieval crusader logic, contradicts the principles of modern international politics. Long gone are the times when the Knights Templar used the Armenians of the Middle East to fight against the Muslim empires. And yet, this is what French policy today is all about. Armenians are used as bargaining chips, in defiance of international law. Our French colleagues need to be reminded of this. After all, crusades directly contradict the principles the French Republic declares as its foundation. And trust me, there are enough political forces and journalists in France who will heed and take note of this argument.
Politics, no doubt, is a dirty game. France, a country with a colonial history in North and Central Africa and Asia built on racism, massacres and assimilation, with a constantly smoldering history of separatism in Corsica (Corsicans are reportedly being persecuted right now), a country notorious for its massacres in Algeria and atrocities in Vietnam, never became the moral authority that has the right to set standards for how Azerbaijan should build relations in the region. All the more so that France’s actions are clearly driven not by a desire to establish peace and order in the Caucasus, but by a desire to promote not even French national interests, but opportunistic, domestic political interests.
Azerbaijan should take this in stride. After all, the situation in Karabakh and on the border with Armenia is under control, Azerbaijan now has the strategic initiative and advantage, and our President, one of the most experienced and successful politicians in the world today, is consistently building relations with the states of Europe, using a range of tools.
Meanwhile, I urge both our colleagues in the diplomatic corps and our diaspora, public figures, members of Parliament, journalists, bloggers, and others involved in the process to take a proactive, patient, and intelligent stance.
Nigar Arpadarai, Member of the Milli Majlis
Translated from 1news.az