France has announced that it will provide Armenia with military equipment to help ensure its defense, following the recent Azerbaijani offensive that captured the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna made the announcement on Tuesday during a visit to Yerevan, where she met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and expressed France’s continued support for Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Colonna said that France had agreed on future contracts with Armenia that would allow the delivery of military equipment, including Mistral air defense systems, to Armenia. She also said that she had asked the European Union to include Armenia in the scope of the European Peace Facility (EPF), an EU military aid fund.
The French minister’s visit was the first by a Western government official since Azerbaijan launched a surprise attack on Nagorno-Karabakh on September 20, 2023, and swiftly took control of the enclave, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but had been run by ethnic Armenians since the 1990s.
The Azerbaijani operation, which was backed by Turkey and involved the use of drones and mercenaries, triggered a humanitarian crisis in the region, as more than 100,000 people fled to Armenia. It also sparked outrage in France, which has a large Armenian diaspora and has been a co-chair of the Minsk Group, a diplomatic initiative to resolve the conflict.
France has already provided 12.5 million euros ($13.08 million) in humanitarian aid to Armenia and has backed the idea of imposing EU sanctions on Azerbaijan. However, it faces resistance from some EU members who have energy interests in Azerbaijan and fear alienating Turkey, a NATO ally.
France has also criticized Russia, Armenia’s historical military ally, for failing to prevent the Azerbaijani advance and for brokering a ceasefire deal that ceded most of Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan. Colonna said that France would monitor the implementation of the agreement and would push for a lasting political solution that respects the rights and aspirations of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.