Azerbaijan Army and Turkish Armed Forces in Joint tactical exercise
France is closely monitoring joint military drills involving troops from Turkey and Azerbaijan close to the Armenian border – with a defence ministry spokesman saying it was “extremely vigilant”.
And French Armed Forces Minister Sebastien Lecornu has confirmed his country was supplying Armenia with weapons “with which to defend yourself” as tensions in the region mount.
The drills got underway yesterday, with foreign ministers from Turkey, Azerbaijan and Armenia meeting with Iranian and Russian counterparts in Tehran for talks focused on the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
A statement issed by Azerbaijan’s Defence Ministry said roughly 3,000 military personnel were taking part in the exercises, named after Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
The exercises, which conclude tomorrow, are being held in Baku; in Azerbaijani territories which were seized from ethnic Armenian control three years ago, as well as the Azerbaijani exclave of Naxcivan.
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The French spokesman said: “As Catherine Colonna, the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, has indicated on several occasions, France will be extremely vigilant in the face of any attempt to threaten the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Armenia.”
Paris began boosting up military cooperation with Armenia in September last year, but Azerbaijan’s perceived aggression has increased willingness to strengthen ties.
France last month set a military attache to the French embassy in the Yerevan, the Armenian capital.
On Monday, Armenia signed a contract to purchase three Ground Master 200 radars from Thales, identical to those delivered to Ukraine, plus another one with Safran for equipment including both binoculars and sensors.
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Armenia and France have also signed a letter of intent prior to the purchase of Mistral air defence systems made by MBDA.
Mr Lecornu said: “Even if we are not part of the same military and political alliances, we assume this defense relationship, which is based on the simple principle that you need to be able to defend yourself and your civilian population.”
The meeting in the Iranian capital is the first since Azerbaijan regained control of Nagorno-Karabakh, with more than
100,000 ethnic Armenians forced to flee.
Armenia has accused Azerbaijan of carrying out ethnic cleansing – a claim its neighbour denies, insisting people were free to stay and be integrated.
The two nations have fought two wars in the past 30 years and have never managed to strike a peace deal.
Turkey has close linguistic and cultural ties with Azerbaijan and offered Baku military support during the two conflicts.
By contrast Ankara has no diplomatic ties with Armenia.
Iran’s IRNA news agency quoted its own Foreign Ministry as saying the nations wanted to discuss regional issues “without the interference of nonregional and Western countries”.
The statement was almost certainly a reference to both the United States and the European Union, each of which has been tying to broker a peace deal.
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