France’s foreign minister on Friday urged Azerbaijan to restore “unhindered movement” through the Lachin corridor, the only land link between Armenia and the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh enclave.
Azerbaijan established a checkpoint at the entry of the corridor last weekend, a move that Armenia denounced as a breach of the latest ceasefire between the two arch-foes.
France’s top diplomat Catherine Colonna said during a news conference in Yerevan that Armenia’s territorial integrity must be respected.
Her Armenian counterpart Ararat Mirzoyan said for his part that free movement “should be restored”.
Colonna arrived in Armenia after first visiting Baku, where she was hosted by Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
“The purpose of the visit is to reaffirm France’s support for the Armenian government and people,” Colonna said.
She said it was important for Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume negotiations to secure a resolution to their decades-long standoff.
“We encourage you to resolutely take this path,” Colonna said, adding this was “the only way to achieve a just and lasting peace”.
She acknowledged this was a “difficult path”.
Colonna also said Paris was ready to back Armenia in the process, “alongside the European Union and the United States, in coordination with the OSCE and the United Nations”.
France has a large Armenian minority, and President Emmanuel Macron has sought to retain Paris’s influence over resolving the Karabakh conflict.
On Thursday, Azerbaijan rebuked Paris for failing to use its influence to help calm tensions in the South Caucasus.
On Friday, Azerbaijan reiterated that it had set up a checkpoint on “Azerbaijan’s territory.”
“We continue to be in close contact with the International Committee of the Red Cross and the Russian peacekeeping contingent to best facilitate humanitarian access,” Deputy Foreign Minister Elnur Mammadov was quoted as saying in a statement sent to AFP on Friday.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars over the mountainous enclave of Karabakh that left tens of thousands dead.
Moscow brokered a ceasefire after the latest bout of fighting in 2020 and posted peacekeepers along the Lachin corridor.
With Moscow bogged down in Ukraine and unwilling to strain ties with Azerbaijan’s key ally Turkey, the United States and European Union have sought to steer a thaw in ties.
Asked whether he wanted negotiations hosted by Europe and Washington or Russia, Mirzoyan said there was “no difference between the platforms”.
He was due to travel to Washington for a trilateral meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.