Fearing Turkish role, France wants international supervision in Nagorno-Karabakh

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PARIS (Reuters) – France wants international supervision to implement a ceasefire in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as Paris fears Russia and Turkey reach a deal to exclude Western powers from future peace talks, the presidency said Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: French President Emmanuel Macron stands after laying a wreath in front of the statue of Georges Clemenceau during Armistice Day commemorations marking the end of World War I in Paris, France, November 11, 2020. REUTERS / Christian Hartmann / Pool

Moscow co-chairs the Minsk group overseeing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Washington and Paris, but they were not involved in the agreement signed by Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan to end six weeks of fighting in the enclave.

Since the ceasefire, Russia has held talks with Turkey, a key ally of Azerbaijan and a harsh critic of the Minsk group, which could lead Ankara to deploy troops to the region.

“The end of the fighting must now allow the resumption of negotiations in good faith 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”, did he declare. Emmanuel Macron’s office said after calls with the Azerbaijani president and the Armenian prime minister.

The French population comprises between 400,000 and 600,000 people of Armenian origin. Macron was careful not to support part of the conflict, but was criticized at home that he did not do enough to help Yerevan.

“We want the Minsk Group to play its role in defining surveillance (of the ceasefire),” a French presidential official told reporters.

The source said that Paris was pushing for “international supervision” of the ceasefire to allow the return of refugees, organize the return of foreign fighters, especially from Syria, and start talks on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Relations between France and Turkey have been particularly bad for several months. Paris accused Ankara of fueling the crisis in the caucuses.

“We understand that the Russians are discussing with the Turks a possible formula, which we do not want, which would replicate the Astana (process) to divide their roles in this sensitive region,” the official said.

“We cannot have Minsk on one side and Astana on the other. At some point, the Russians have to make a choice.

The Astana forum allowed Russia and Turkey to discuss among themselves how to deal with the Syrian conflict and how to sideline the Western powers.

Reporting by John Irish; Editing by Tom Brown

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