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Dr Frank Musmar on Baku-Paris relations: France sees Zangazur Corridor as Turkish route

15 January 2024 08:30 (UTC+04:00)
Dr Frank Musmar on Baku-Paris relations: France sees Zangazur Corridor as Turkish route
Elnur Enveroglu
Elnur Enveroglu
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A sharp incline in France-Azerbaijan relations towards tension remains high on the agenda. While Azerbaijan is a country allied with the European Union, such a situation with France also raises a number of questions. Most importantly, it is very interesting how long this tension will last and what will this end up with.

First of all, we addressed our questions to Dr. Frank Musmar, a political analyst and expert in the Middle East, Turkiye and the Caucasus, in order to find out more about the causes of the tension. Speaking to AZERNEWS, the expert explained the fact that France has recently been more active in the center of the South Caucasus with several reasons.

“First up, we should agree that France has the world's third-largest Armenian diaspora community behind Russia and the United States. It has the largest Armenian community in the European Union, with estimates of nearly 750,000 people and more than half a million French-Armenian citizens.

Moreover, the private sector is also represented extensively, with approximately twenty French local governments involved in twinning schemes and cooperation projects with Armenia in various areas, including tourism and healthcare. In addition, France is the second-largest foreign investor in Armenia, behind Russia,” the expert said.
However, the reasons that attract France to the South Caucasus cannot be limited to this. Of course, France’s spoiling the relations with an ally of EU like Azerbaijan, is not a simple matter. Clarifying the issue from different angles, Dr. Musmar noted that the Russian factor also plays an important role here.

“Increasing the support to Armenia includes the Russian, Great Britain, and Turkish dimensions. France and NATO, in general, are working to distance Armenia from Russia despite being a member of the Moscow-led CSTO military bloc, especially after Russia and President Vladimir Putin neglected to support Armenia in the conflict against Azerbaijan,” he said.

The political analyst also touched on the long-standing contention between France and Great Britain.
“France's historical geopolitical rivalry with Great Britain is an underestimated driver of its actions in the South Caucasus. Intense rivalries across multiple continents marked the opposition between the French and British Empires. Despite being NATO allies today, Parisian diplomacy remains imbued with deep-rooted competition with London,” Dr. Musmar added.

Approaching the issue from another angle, the expert also connected it with the Ottoman history, as well as with the further development of the modern Turkiye-Azerbaijan relations. Dr. Frank Musmar noted that France's jealousy of Ottoman and its surrounding geography arose in the 16th-19th centuries.

“This is the historical fact that the Ottoman Empire and France dominated the Mediterranean from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Initially, they formed alliances against common adversaries, but as France's colonial ambitions expanded, they began to conflict with Ottoman interests in North Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean.
The relationship with modern Turkiye continued to be sensitive, especially considering the military alliance between Turkiye and Azerbaijan. More importantly, the Zangazur Corridor is a Turkish corridor that could unite the Turkish race and help the economies of Azerbaijan and Turkiye flourish. The tract is running along Armenia's border with Iran. France is monitoring Baku's forces to make the move to capture it, such a move that could inflame a broader conflict in the Southern Caucasus, an area where all French rivalries have interests, such as Turkiye, Russia, and Iran, all have core strategic interests,” the expert emphasized.

Of course, Azerbaijan does not want any critical issues to emerge in relations with France or the West. Even at a moment when the peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan is progressing, more support from the is needed across counries. According to Dr. Musmar, the West's support for the processes in the South Caucasus is primarily determined by its interests.

“The Western superpowers always welcome normalization of the relationship with any country; however, it all depends on what the West will gain and lose from such a move. The secret of the success of any Diaspora is the corporations. The West is operated and controlled by corporations, and the Armenian diaspora is always successful in influencing the political decisions of the West by getting involved in business with the corporations that are considered the real decision-makers in the Western world,” he noted.

It is interesting whether the change of the current government in France can affect the relations with the region relatively. In response to this question, the expert said that Western policy is unchanged.

“The Western foreign policies do not change; they follow a line of continuations that every government adheres to. However, the policy application looks different for the inexpert from one government to another,” he concluded.

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Elnur Enveroglu is AzerNews’ Deputy Editor-in-Chief, follow him on @ElnurMammadli1

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