French Armenians plead for Nagorno-Karabakh intervention
Dozens of women and men hurry along a street towards a square behind France's National Assembly in Paris. They are waving Armenia's red, blue and orange flag, or have it draped over their bodies. Some hold up signs that read "Recognise Karabakh", while many chant Hayastan, or Armenia.
The protesters are gathering on a Tuesday afternoon to demand France support Armenia in the conflict with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh region. After all, France harbours Western Europe's biggest Armenian diaspora with up to 600,000 members. But, for now, Paris is showing restraint in its support for the Armenian side – at least when it comes to action.
"This is a cry from the heart," Franck Papazian yells into a microphone, addressing the crowd that has since swelled to several hundred people. He is co-president of the Coordination Committee of Armenian Organisations in France (CCAF), which organised the demonstration in Paris and a dozen others across the country in recent weeks.
"We can't just let this massacre happen – we need peacekeepers in the region!" he pleads. "Please, we are asking you. You won't be able to say afterwards that you didn't know what was happening."
Turkey "has crossed a red line"
The decades-old conflict over the region erupted afresh in late September. The ethnically Armenian region belongs to Azerbaijan, but has been controlled by Armenians since the 1990s. Several hundred people have been killed in the recent fighting, while tens of thousands have been displaced, according to local officials.
French President Emmanuel Macron early in October accused Turkey of sending hundreds of mercenaries and jihadists to help Azerbaijan. "[Turkey] has crossed a red line – that's unacceptable," he said. He added that, as co-president of the OSCE Minsk Group, he has pleaded for an immediate ceasefire in the region.
The organisation was set up in 1992 to mediate in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and is also co-chaired by the U.S. and Russia. But two ceasefires, negotiated recently by Russia and the OCSE Minsk Group, were almost immediately breached, with both sides accusing each other of violating them first.