The OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs are visiting the region. Earlier the French president Francois Hollande replaced their co-chair. Pierre Andriot has been replaced by Stefan Visconti.
What will the replacement of the co-chair change in the actions and policy of France? As a rule, the replacements of co-chairs do not have a significant impact on the process of settlement of the Karabakh conflict. However, there are exceptions. For instance, such is the American co-chair Warlick. The U.S. Department of State announced upon his affirmation that the new co-chair will try to apply new approaches and activate the process.
Warlick applied new approaches. He started using Twitter actively, often making ambiguous hints on the process of settlement. Warlick’s tweets significantly “dismantled” the process and made it more accessible to the public eye or, in other words, to a greater extent more subject to public control.
In addition, it should be stated that the American co-chair with his new approaches appeared in the process of settlement in a period when Russia had actually taken control of the three-party format of settlement and was trying to promote the “Kazan plan”. Warlick with his new approaches helped thwarting the “Kazan plan”, which is welcome from the point of view of the interest of Armenia because as a few media, experts and commentators wrote, there were dangerous aspects in that plan for Armenia and Artsakh, which Serzh Sargsyan confessed only after the April war.
What will the debut of the French co-chair be like? In this sense, it should be noted that on the whole the French co-chairs were relatively the most unnoticeable ones, which is apparently determined by the French policy.
Will France change its style along with the replacement of the co-chair? At least, now France has appeared at the front line. First, after the April war the United States undertook the Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting in Vienna, stressing the international mechanism of ceasefire on the agenda. Azerbaijan and Russia disliked that and Moscow initiated the meeting in Saint Petersburg in June, where they tried to bypass that issue.
On the next day the French ambassador in Armenia held a press conference in Yerevan and announced that Paris will organize a new Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting. The ambassador also said that though there is no word on the ceasefire mechanism in the final statement of Saint Petersburg but it is primary for them.
However, France did not initiate the third meeting. The July developments in Yerevan and the terrorist attack in Nice took place over this period. Interestingly, the terrorist attack in Nice was on July 14, and the storming of the Police Patrol Regiment was on July 17. There was another interesting circumstance on June 20. A few hours prior to the meeting in Saint Petersburg Zhirair Sefilyan was arrested, suspected of preparing storming of government buildings and other armed actions in Yerevan.
The process of Artsakh was pushed aside.
Currently France is at the front line. A few days ago the French Senate again adopted the bill penalizing the denial of the Armenian genocide, which will be submitted to the French president to sign. This bill was adopted in 2012 but was suspected by the Constitutional Assembly.
Ahead of the new Senate decision and Hollande’s approval France appeared at the front line of the international policy of isolation of Russia. The French president Hollande who was a relatively restrained side of this policy has recently cancelled the meeting with Putin in Paris, therefore Putin cancelled his visit to Paris. Afterwards, quite tough negotiations between France, Germany and Putin on Syria took place.
The replacement of the French co-chair in the OSCE Minsk Group is taking place in the context of these developments, and the co-chairs arrive in the Caucasus where the organization of the third Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting following April is viewed as a primary issue for them, at least judging by the statements made so far.
Is Paris trying to return what had been lost in Artsakh?