But, for now, Paris is showing restraint in its support for the Armenian side – at least when it comes to actions.
“It’s a cry from the bottom of my heart,” yells Franck Papazian into a microphone, addressing the crowd which has since swelled to several hundred people. He is co-chair of the Coordination Committee of Armenian Organizations in France (CCAF), which organized the protest in Paris and a dozen others across the country in recent weeks.
“We cannot let this massacre happen – we need peacekeepers in the region! »He pleads.
“Please, we ask you. You will not be able to say afterwards that you did not know what was going on. “
Turkey “crossed a red line”
The decades-old conflict over the region flared up again at the end of September. The ethnically Armenian region belongs to Azerbaijan but has been controlled by the Armenians since the 1990s. Several hundred people have been killed in recent fighting, while tens of thousands have been displaced, according to local officials.
French President Emmanuel Macron accused Turkey in early October of sending hundreds of mercenaries and jihadists to help Azerbaijan. ” [Turkey] crossed a red line – this is unacceptable, ”he said.
He added that as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, he called for an immediate ceasefire in the region. The organization was established in 1992 to mediate the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and is also co-chaired by the United States and Russia.
But two ceasefires, negotiated recently by Russia and the OCSE Minsk group, were almost immediately violated, with both sides accusing each other of violating them first.
The OSCE Minsk Group mediation efforts, however, appear to be France’s only plan for the time being. When asked if other measures, including sanctions against Turkey, were on the table, a source from the Elysee Palace referred to OSCE Group Minsk, saying the country hoped that a ceasefire could be established.
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France’s approach is insufficient for protesters
This clearly did not meet the expectations of Talin Mungan, who traveled with a group of 20 other French Armenians from south of Marseille to join the protest in Paris. “France should immediately sever its political and economic ties with Turkey,” the 33-year-old told DW, wrapped in Armenian flags.
“This conflict is the continuation of the Armenian genocide in Turkey in 1915 and 1916, during which the country killed more than a million Armenians.”
Mungan refers to the time when, from 1915, up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by the Ottoman Turks. Many academics and countries, including the German parliament, have recognized the massacres as genocide. Turkey has repeatedly rejected the term.
At the time, Mungan’s grandparents were forced to flee to the Turkish mountains. They were hidden by the Kurds, had to change their names and pretend to be Muslims. “We cannot stand aside while they are slaughtering our brothers and sisters in Nagorno-Karabakh now,” she said.
Talin Mungan (left) with his cousin during the demonstration in Paris
A few meters to his left, Samo, 40, who does not want to reveal his last name, silently watches the speeches of the demonstrators. Originally from the western Armenian region of Ararat, he came to live in France with his three children 10 years ago.
“Two dozen of my friends and relatives in Armenia went to Nagorno-Karabakh to fight with our compatriots,” he told DW. “Of course I’m scared for them, but I would do the same if I was there now. We do not have the choice. We must defend our country – if necessary, with our lives. ”
“After all, if Azerbaijan wins this conflict, it certainly won’t stop there and will also try to conquer the rest of Armenia,” he adds.
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The Armenians considered as “great enemies”
But are such fears and comparisons with the massacres of Armenians justified?
Mikaël Nichanian, French Armenian historian and curator at the National Library of France, says they are. “Such a connection could even be made without Turkey’s current involvement,” he told DW.
“After all, some Azerbaijani politicians participated in the Armenian genocide and were part of the Union and Progress Committee, the Turkish political organization that conceived the Armenian genocide. ”
Nichanian added that the Azerbaijanis massacred over 20,000 Armenians in Baku, Azerbaijan in September 1918 – under the supervision of the Turkish army. “The Azerbaijani and Turkish identities are both based on a hatred of the Armenians, who have been their scapegoats for over a century and whom they regard as their great enemies. ”
“This is how these countries unite their citizens in order to maintain their authoritarian regimes,” he adds.
French lawmakers call for more support
In this context, even lawmakers from President Macron’s own party, La République en Marche (LREM), are arguing for more active support for Armenians. Some signed a resolution calling on the government to recognize the independence of Nagorno-Karabakh.
This includes Anne-Laurence Petel, Member of Parliament for LREM. “It’s not just the Caucasus,” she told DW. “We must put Turkish President Recep Erdogan back in his place. It pursues an expansionist policy, also in the Mediterranean Sea where it fights with Greece and Cyprus for gas reserves and maritime rights. ”
Left unchecked, Erdogan could one day invade Cyprus and Greece, she said. “We have to show him that the EU will not have this by setting limits now. ”
Guillaume Kasbarian, another LREM lawmaker, also wants more action. “Former French President Jacques Chirac strongly advocated for several NATO airstrikes during the Yugoslav war in 1999, which ultimately forced Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to back down and prevented an escalation,” he told DW .
“We have to bark our teeth now, send peacekeepers and impose sanctions – being part of the OSCE group in Minsk is not enough,” he adds.
New events await you
Protesters in the square behind Parliament remain determined to do their part to force France. “We will not stand back while there is a massacre,” Papazian shouts into the microphone. Then he announces another meeting for in a few days.
“Each of you should bring 10 other people for our protest to grow bigger and bigger,” he shouts.
” Yes! The crowd rejoices.
“Time is running out – tomorrow might be too late,” said Papazian.