France wants international supervision to implement a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict amid concerns in Paris that Russia and Turkey could strike a deal to cut out Western powers from future peace talks, the presidency said on Thursday.
Moscow co-chairs the Minsk group overseeing the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute with Washington and Paris, but they were not involved in the deal signed by Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to end six weeks of fighting over the enclave.
Since the ceasefire, Russia has held talks with Turkey, a key Azerbaijani ally and a harsh critic of the Minsk group, that could lead to Ankara deploying 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 Azerbaijani president and Armenian prime minister, as reported by Reuters.
France’s population includes between 400,000 to 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 source 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 been particularly bad for several months. Paris has accused Ankara of fuelling 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.