Azerbaijan is Accused by France of Fuelling Unrest in New Caledonia

Azerbaijan is openly accused by France of fomenting unrest in New Caledonia, supposedly in response to French support for its foe, Armenia. guardian.co.uk

 

May 17, 2024

In an unexpected geopolitical twist, France has publicly accused Azerbaijan of supporting separatist movements in New Caledonia, a French overseas territory. This surprising development, announced by French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, has escalated tensions between the two nations and added a new layer of complexity to global geopolitical dynamics.

Speaking at a press conference, Minister Darmanin stated that Azerbaijan has been providing support to separatist factions in New Caledonia, where a recent surge in violence has led to the imposition of a curfew and resulted in several casualties. ” This isn’t a fantasy,” he said. “I regret that some of the separatists have made a deal with Azerbaijan” Darmanin declared.

The allegation seems peculiar given Azerbaijan’s geographical and historical detachment from New Caledonia. Baku’s motivation is said to exert pressure on France to cease its military support to Armenia, Azerbaijan’s long-standing rival. The two nations fought intense wars in 2020 and 2023 over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, with Azerbaijan emerging victorious and reclaiming control over the territory, internationally recognized as its part. This history of conflict makes Azerbaijan’s alleged support for separatism in New Caledonia appear contradictory, as it has been a victim of a prolonged separatist struggle.

Some experts argue that openly confronting France is unlikely to change Paris’s support for Armenia. In recent years, France has maintained a strong stance in favor of Armenia, even as Azerbaijan continues to rebuild and secure Nagorno-Karabakh. This includes France’s recent diplomatic expulsions in retaliation to similar actions by Azerbaijan, showcasing a significant deterioration in their bilateral relations.

However, others point out instances of the West’s mixed policy toward Azerbaijan. Recently, the US ambassador to Azerbaijan criticized the crackdown on media and openly said that he would not visit Shusha, an Azerbaijani town recaptured from Armenians in Karabakh, “not to be a part of the show.” Exactly two days later, he visited Shusha and published extensively about it on social media accounts.

Despite these accusations and diplomatic skirmishes, France has also shown signs of supporting peaceful resolutions between Azerbaijan and Armenia. France, along with other Western governments and the EU, recently endorsed a minor border delimitation agreement between the two countries as a positive step towards peace. Yet, domestic protests in Armenia against Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan suggest deep dissatisfaction with these concessions.

Western media reports also hint at a broader geopolitical struggle, suggesting that Azerbaijan’s actions in New Caledonia might be part of a larger strategy involving Russia and China. If true, Azerbaijan, a relatively small nation, could be aligning itself with larger powers in a high-stakes game of global politics.

Critics warn that this strategy could backfire, posing significant political, economic, and security risks for Azerbaijan. Engaging in such bold geopolitical maneuvers might jeopardize its relations with Western powers and create new vulnerabilities.

However, with a foreign policy establishment criticized for corruption and a lack of professional diplomacy, Azerbaijan might not fully grasp the long-term consequences of its actions. Baku appears committed to its confrontational stance, seemingly allying with Russia and China while overlooking the benefits of a more cautious and flexible diplomatic approach, especially crucial given its fragile peace with Armenia.

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