An Epic Of French Military Aid: How The Ambassador’s Words Changed

Ophelia Simonyan


The July 23 interview of the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of France to Armenia Jonathan Lacotte to RFE/RL became the subject of a new public discussion. In response to journalist Sargis Harutyunyan’s question, the ambassador said that France would be ready to examine the military applications addressed to them by the Armenian authorities. This idea, as a headline, was spread in a number of media outlets. The issue of military assistance expected from France appeared on the agenda.

It is important, however, that Armenia has not yet submitted any application, in other words, it has not applied to the UN Security Council. Moreover, the chairman of the RA National Assembly Standing Committee on Foreign Relations Ruben Rubinyan announced today on Public Television that now is not the right time to apply to the UN Security Council.

“The UN Security Council is a body that makes decisions by consensus. I say this because I see people constantly saying, why don’t you apply to the UN Security Council? It makes sense to carry out processes there when certain homework is done. In general, that process should be according to the opportunity. If such an opportunity is needed, actions will be taken.”

On July 25, political scientist Styopa Safaryan, again on RFE/RL, praised Lacotte’s statement, saying that “France’s air defense systems and their satellite services may be useful if Azerbaijan suddenly decides to go on a new adventure.”

On July 26, the leader of the “Republic” party Aram Sargsyan, referring to the interview of the French ambassador to Armenia, said:

“The French ambassador said that we can help you in military matters, the step has been taken, why not use it…? If there is any military technology that Russia has and it meets the standards that we need, and which increases our security, first of all, we should buy from Russia. But when Russia does not have… that is, the so-called anti-aircraft systems, which can fight against terrorists, and which is a defensive weapon, not offensive, and France has, it offers us and we do not take a step towards it․ I consider it a gross mistake.”

Thus, Aram Sargsyan attributed words to Jonathan Lacotte, which he did not say.

And what did Lacotte really say?

In many cases, the speech of the French Ambassador to Armenia was presented out of context. Based on Lacotte’s statement that France will be ready to consider the military applications of the Armenian authorities, political and military analyzes were launched that France is already ready to provide military assistance to Armenia.

Examining that part of Lacotte’s interview, we see that there is no word about the readiness to provide military assistance to Armenia. Moreover, the ambassador repeatedly emphasizes in his speech that France is fighting for a world where conflicts are not resolved by force and that political processes should start between Armenia and Azerbaijan under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group.

“As for the military cooperation between Armenia and France, we will, of course, be ready to consider all the applications addressed to us by the Armenian authorities. Of course, we have to take into account some realities: Armenia and France are not members of the same alliance: Our role is not to prepare for a future war, our role is to avoid new conflicts and accompany them in the political process, which will allow a final solution to the problematic issues in the region,” Lacotte said.

Lacotte also referred to the role of the Russian side in the region.

“As for Russia’s role, we must look at the current realities. The current realities are such that Russia ensures the security of the Armenians of Karabakh. If there were no Russian forces, there would be no more Armenians in Karabakh ․․․․ The statement of November 9 was a step, but now we need to strengthen the peace, the ceasefire and start a political process between Armenia and Azerbaijan under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk.”

As we see, in these statements there is no word that the West, as represented by France, has expressed readiness to provide military assistance to Armenia. Instead, we see the ambassador’s cautious response to the fact that France will consider Armenia’s applications in military matters, emphasizing that we are not members of the same alliance and that their role is not to prepare for a future war.

The epic of French military aid continues

Although the ambassador’s statement does not mention military assistance, nevertheless, based on that interview, the epic about French military assistance continues.

In an interview on July 27, Jirayr Sefilyan said that the issue of the presence of the French army in Syunik and Artsakh is being discussed today.

“…If Russia does not accept that proposal, they may be faced with a worse option. I mean the presence of the representatives of the Polish army in Armenia and Artsakh.”

Along with these public discussions, YouTube channels, mushroom sites and Facebook clickbait pages were also activated.

The GoodTVArmenia YouTube channel “France opens playing cards and reaches out to Armenia: Azerbaijan mourns” publishes a manipulative video, which only quotes the part of Lakotte’s interview where the discussion of possible applications from Armenia is mentioned, and there is no mention about the “playing card” opened by France.

Despite that, the video has more than 20,861 views, it has been spread on many Facebook pages, the video has been published on the platforms of mushroom sites.

Another YouTube channel, 8rd.am, published a video titled “Michael’s plan for Armenia: French troops in Artsakh” and talks about the possibility of French troops stationed in Nagorno Karabakh.

The Great Armenia channel broadcasted a video in May 2021 titled “France withdrew its army: They are coming to Armenia.”

There is no mention here about the French army coming to Armenia. There is only an opinion that this may be a possible scenario. That is, the title was used to collect views.

Today, on July 28, amid border tensions, when it became known that three Armenian servicemen had been killed in hostilities, Facebook users began spreading words attributed to French President Emanuel Macron, saying, “If Russia does not intervene, I will bring peace to Armenia with my army.”

Examining the material, we see that the title and the content do not match. The article quoted the words of the French ambassador from the July 28 press conference. In response to journalists’ questions, Lacotte says that the existing problems in the region should not be solved by force and reiterates that France is ready to consider Armenia’s applications. There is no mention in the article about Macron’s statement and the words attributed to him.

Thus, on July 23, the French ambassador did not make any statement on providing military assistance to Armenia, but, answering the journalist’s question, stressed the readiness to consider Armenia’s applications. The opinion spread in the media that France has offered its air defense systems to Armenia is based not on Lacotte’s words but on the assumptions of some politicians and clickbait pages.

Ophelia Simonyan

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