Paris. 7 December. REPORT.AZ/ Report interviews member of the France-Caucasus Friendship Group of the French Senate, Commission for Foreign Affairs, Defense and Armed Forces, former Defense Minister and State Secretary for Justice, Senator Jean-Marie Bockel.
- How did you decide to become a member of the France-Caucasus friendship group in the Senate?
- Seven years ago during my first visit to Azerbaijan through the French embassy I discovered a developing and modernizing country with its hospitable people. We immediately contacted the President of Azerbaijan and the First Lady of the Republic. I became a member of the France-Caucasus friendship group of the French Senate and the Association of Friends of Azerbaijan in France, as I considered Azerbaijan a country, though not perfect, but very exciting, and as I was sensitive on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement which remains an "open wound" in the region today. Not limiting itself with its mission only, the Embassy of Azerbaijan also demonstrated its interest in building a deeper relationship with the cities, regions, and provinces of our country. When I was the head of the Mulhous agglomeration, I was closely involved in strengthening these ties. We immaterialized these ties with a friendly charter, we established relationships between universities, cultures, and organized corners dedicated to Azerbaijan in the tourism halls. When I was the Mayor of the city of Mulhous, we signed a Friendship Charter between our city and the Yevlakh city of Azerbaijan. In addition, the Charter of Friendship was signed between the town of Kolmar city of Alzas and Shaki city of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijani musical orchestra and dance ansembles gave concerts in the cities of our region. Thus, the relations between Azerbaijan and France are deep and comprehensive, covering the local population. All these were interesting for both sides, and our relations were built on a pure and transparent basis.
- France is co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not been solved yet. What do you think about it?
- I sincerely wish that France as a co-chair of the Minsk Group fulfills its role and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict is really resolved. Every time the new president is elected in France, he demonstrates strenuousness in this matter, holds meetings, and when political ideas come to a common denominator, the conflict remains unresolved. I am really frustrated about it. Since there are all the necessary elements for the restoration of peace, there is an agreement, only political forces should respond.
- And what hinders it?
- I do not want to teach anyone on this difficult and complicated problem where many elements play a role. However, I want to say that there are many friends of Armenia in France. I am also a friend of Armenia and I want to say that I am glad that there is a country called Armenia in the world. But I consider that it would be good if Azerbaijan also had several friends in France. They should not just criticize Azerbaijan. You can find matters to criticize in every country if you concentrate on it. It is necessary to see and mention positive sides. In particular, France, as a country responsible for the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, should be able to keep the distance with Armenia, as well as with both sides. France should not take a side systematically as some powers demand from us.
- What do you think about the current development of bilateral relations between our countries?
- In anticipation of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, we should develop bilateral relations, especially economic cooperation between our countries. France experiences difficult situation due to the drop in oil prices, which affects cooperation with other countries Azerbaijan has no problem in this field. Rising oil prices, taxes, and other elements caused problems in France. Azerbaijan-France should develop and continue cooperation in economic, political, cultural and other areas. I think that French President Emmanuel Macron was right when he separated his visit to Azerbaijan from the other countries of Caucasus - Georgia and Armenia. It is more expedient to make a special visit to Azerbaijan when time comes. There is no ground to postpone this visit. In its turn, this visit will boost cooperation between France and Azerbaijan in the political, economic and defense spheres, and will have a positive impact on the role of France as the Minsk Group co-chair.
What do you think about the "friendly charter" signed between the cities of France and the cities of the so-called "Nagorno-Karabakh Republic"?
- When I was the president of Mulhous agglomeration, I signed a friendship charter with one of the cities of Azerbaijan. I am a friend of Azerbaijan. In fact, it is possible to sign friendly charters with any city, even the most conflicting areas. This is not illegal. This is a political choice. However, in my view, it is not right to sign such friendly charter agreements with the cities or villages of Nagorno-Karabakh, since trips, joint declarations, flags can be understood as recognition of this territory, which is not true. Because this territory has not been recognized by the international community. As a friend of Azerbaijan, I can say that such friendly charter is not illegal, but ambiguous. I would say that the signing of friendship charters with the cities in Karabakh is a way of struggle that leads to a diaspora issue as mentioned above. I want to emphasize once again that these persons should not “confuse” these factors.
-What is your attitude to the critical articles on Azerbaijan in the French press?
- Of course, the French press focuses on the negative aspects and does not mention positive sides such as progress, society, some freedoms, and women's position in society. I consider that such shortcomings may stem from tension. However, we need to accept them as they are. We can’t change them by saying "You are wrong", “you are mistaken". On the one hand, it is possible to achieve positive results through communication, by explaining them and, on the other hand, further improving the areas that need development. France has relations with the countries that are not democratic, as well as with Saudi Arabia and China. France also cooperates with the countries of this category. These countries are sometimes criticized, however, they do not highlight only negative aspects of these countries. Their trade, mutual interest and other positive aspects are also reflected in the French press. When speaking to journalists, I try to explain them that they have the right to criticize, but they should know the difference between the right and wrong. It would be good to call the things by their names. Sometimes it is good to see the reality and the truth in place. They do the same with respect to the Golf country, however, they do not take any effort towards Azerbaijan. Distancing from reality they ignore the efforts of this young country. Of course, there are many areas to be developed in your very young country. The Azerbaijani people can know this better. However, I can say that as a friend of Azerbaijan, I am glad when democracy, human rights and other spheres develop in Azerbaijan.
What are the most memorable moments in your visit to Azerbaijan?
- During my trip to Azerbaijan, I visited the Jewish community two times. This is a settlement where Moutain Jews liv , not a quarter with a few Jewish houses. Tolerance reigns there. Certainly, Jews constitute a very small part of the predominantly Muslim country. But this is a sign and that we cannot find it in most Muslim countries. This is a commendable reality.