France's approval of a bill making it a crime to deny that Ottoman Turks committed genocide against ethnic Armenians during World War I has not only enraged Turkey, but also proven de trop for Turkey’s regional cousin, Azerbaijan. As a result, an Azerbaijani campaign is now building for the French to stop mediating Azerbaijan’s conflict with Armenia over the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh.
Baku, which has long maintained if-you-love-me-you-must-love-Turkey stance, believes that France has undermined its status as an impartial negotiator in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by passing the bill. France, along with the US and Russia, has long led the effort to resolve the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over the territory through a negotiations mechanism called the Minsk Group.
As of yet, no public sign that President Aliyev also expressed such views during his recent peace pow-wow in Sochi with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, but the remarks no doubt occurred with Aliyev's sanction.
“Lately, French leaders act as an Armenia lobbyist,” Ahmedov went on saying. (A similar charge has been leveled at the US Senate by some Azerbaijanis over the scuttled confirmation of former Ambassador Matthew Bryza.) “The fact that the French President [Nicolas] Sarkozy… called Armenia a sister to France and called on the European Union to adopt this absurd law… is clear proof of this.” The bill is just a presidential signature away from being signed into law.
Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry slammed French lawmakers for passing the bill while ignoring the 1992 Khojaly massacre of ethnic Azeris in Nagorno Karabakh, and the rights of the thousands of ethnic Azeris displaced by the 1988-1994 war over Karabakh and surrounding Azerbaijani territory.
The ministry, which last week summoned French Ambassador Gabriel Keller for an official dressing-down, called on France to “take an unbiased look at . . . history without turning such questions into . . . fodder for political gambling.”