French intellectuals in support of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh in the Senate.
On March 16, under the high patronage of the President of the Senate, Gérard Larcher, and the President of the National Assembly, Yaël Braun-Pivet, the great hall of the Pavillon de l’Orangerie was packed to listen to the personalities of various opinions gathered to support the 120,000 Armenians of the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh, victims since December 12 of a blockade of the Latchine corridor by Azerbaijan.
The Latchine corridor is the only access route between Nagorno-Karabakh, which is as big as a French department, with Armenia and the rest of the world through which food products, medicines, electricity and gas are regularly cut off this winter. The road has been closed to all supplies for more than 100 days and only a few convoys of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) bring medicines and carry out medical evacuations. On the other hand, the Russian peacekeeping contingent in charge of the Latchine corridor transports some food products.
The reality is that the population is held hostage by this blockade which lasts despite numerous international condemnations and that the future is very uncertain, very threatening for the population.
Below are excerpts from the remarks made by intellectuals and elected officials, senators and deputies, during this conference coordinated by Valerie Toranian, journalist, writer and editor of Le Point magazine.
The president of the international information group on Nagorno-Karabakh of the Senate, Bruno Retailleau, introduced the subject from the outset: what is being played out over there is something that concerns us, what is being played out over there is what Milan Kundera once called “the future of these small nations”
“Today Armenia is waiting for us. Today the situation is dramatic. We must absolutely mobilize ourselves.”
“We cannot fight against ethnic cleansing only with postures of indignation, postures of protest, we need sanctions (…), we need an interposition force if we want to be effective.”
Bernard Kouchner, former Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs, proposes an explosive approach, humanitarian and diplomatic, likely to open the road “We must help these Armenians who are a part of ourselves by their fight, their decisions, their tenacity, their courage. If we could get Europe to organize trucks with flags, I think that this first European humanitarian convoy would not be rejected. It would be a historic event. It requires that one or two countries take the responsibility to do it. And Bernard Kouchner rightly concluded, “There is only a political solution. Listening to him, I fear in myself that the return of the war will sign the failure of politics, so much it depends on Azerbaijan!
Philosopher, novelist, essayist, Pascal Bruckner, returns to the meeting in January at the Elysee Palace with the President of the Republic, Emmanuel Macron, and a delegation of intellectuals and journalists who came to plead the urgency to act to protect the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh in danger.
“It was a very determined president that we found that day. We suggested to him to go directly to Armenia and to have a symbolic gesture to proclaim the Franco-Armenian friendship and the scandal that the blockade of Artsakh constituted. We left with a certain hope, that was two months ago, today the Elysée Palace is mute (…) We regret it very much.”
“It would be enough for the President of the Republic to go to Yerevan to deal with this burning issue, but while waiting for Emmanuel Macron to agree to commit, our role is to harass the media and opinion to raise awareness and warn that an ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh would be unbearable and that the French authorities would bear a very big responsibility.”
The writer, geographer, mountaineer in search of human heights, Sylvain Tesson, reveals his amazement at what makes the diverse unity of support for Armenia and why politics must rise to the level of history.
“I am very surprised by one thing about Armenia, and that is the extraordinary unanimity of the political class in this country on the Armenian question.
“If we think about it, it is perhaps because precisely this small territorial anomaly concentrates, gathers, attracts a crowd of quite different and disparate motives in which everybody can recognize himself for spiritual, intellectual, political, historical reasons. Armenia is the anomaly of human rights in the midst of autocrats.
Human rights, the cross, historical precedents, the long habit of misfortune and pain that Armenia has shown to the world, this kind of championship of martyrdom that constitutes a part of the Armenian identity, the cultural, geographical, human, demographic proximity with Europe. All these cultural, political and spiritual motives constitute the shimmering of the reasons that make very disparate, very opposed people in the civil sphere come to Armenia’s bedside. This is a wonderful thing. It is called the convergence of spiritual struggles. This is what we must try to express so that we stop considering this country with silence and indifference.”
“We don’t make an assessment with intentions. For the moment, there is the reason of State that makes it impossible to intervene immediately, not to act immediately. This is called politics. Politics is when we try to wait for the right moment to act. History is when you act despite the fact that it is the wrong time. This is a big difference. We hope that intention turns into action.”
Erik Orsenna, this genial jack-of-all-trades and unparalleled educator and not without a sense of humor, rebounds on the words of Sylvain Tesson “We are basically at the service of anomalies. A writer, an artist is to give a voice to those who do not have it. We will try to continue to give voice, but with actions.”
“What is extraordinary is that there is a very particular kind of agreement between the anomaly and the essential. This link there, what we defend by defending anomalies is that we remember that there are essentials.”
Olivier Weber, writer and great reporter who prepares a documentary “If I forget you Armenia” has prepared this conference and goes straight to the heart of the situation. “These violations of Armenian territory continue. This is called a disguised displacement of population and in International Humanitarian Law, it is called a forced displacement of population, condemned by the Geneva and UN Conventions. What is incredible is to see this denial of this right by Baku, by the authorities of Azerbaijan of this international humanitarian law with repeated violations of Armenian civilians and military. This ethnic cleansing is ongoing. It is a threat not only to the Armenian people, not only to the inhabitants of Nagorno-Karabakh, but also to the stability and peace of the whole region. Whoever threatens Nagorno-Karabakh threatens Armenia and vice versa”.
“It is urgent to denounce and also to act. What we ask is that France protect this country and bring a resolution of the UN Security Council, of which it is a permanent member, to put an end to this iniquitous blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh. France can, and must, in the name of its principles, take such a step, in the name of its age-old friendship with the Armenian people.
And as if to translate the reality, the director of the Stepanakert hospital testifies from a distance in a video “The life of the inhabitants of Artsakh is extremely difficult every day. This concerns food, basic necessities, products especially for children. You have to know that there are permanent electricity and gas cuts.
Blanche de Richemont, writer, philosopher, journalist takes us with great humanity to the heart of the drama that is played out there in the mountains of the South Caucasus “It is a people who have experienced several tragedies, and who keep returning to their land. It is a life that is not afraid. For them, just living is a courage. They love their land viscerally and they know that if they leave, it will fall into the hands of Azeris. So they would rather die standing than live turning their backs on their souls, turning their backs on their lands.”
“Where is our courage? We who are the country of human rights, we who live in a society that never ceases to moralize, yet a population is being strangled before our eyes and we look away. However, what is currently at stake is a struggle of values: that of freedom against dictatorship. If we allow this to happen while France is hosting a large Armenian community, it means that we accept that freedom be flouted and that a land be strangled.
The geographer Emmanuel Ruben will make his own voice heard: “I am not interested in knowing who is Christian or Muslim. What interests me is to know who is the aggressor and the aggressed, the strongest and the weakest.
A great and fascinating scholar that Marina Dedeyan, granddaughter of survivors of the tragedy of Smyrna in 1922, reminds us of our humanities “I would like to remind you of this literary tradition that unites France with the Armenians for centuries, because there is no greater unity between two peoples, no more intimate link than that of letters and culture.
“The Armenia evoked by Alexandre Dumas, as the cradle of the world where the earthly paradise was located. Charles Péguy already wrote that the cause of Armenia is universal. The Armenians, one of the oldest civilizations in the world, who in the 12th century added the f as the 37th letter of their alphabet to write the name of France.
Then, they are deputies and senators, socialist, ecologist, renaissance, republican who in a beautiful and rare unanimity who will testify, they who carry here the representation of the Senate and the National Assembly.
It is François Pupponi, former deputy mayor and President of the Circle of Friendship France-Artsakh, who exclaims “France cannot accept that 130 000 Aksariothes disappear”.
It is Anne-Laurence Petel, deputy and president of the France-Armenia friendship group of the National Assembly who declares “The Armenian cause is a transparent cause. We are all mobilized in the Assembly and in the Senate in support of the Armenians of Armenia and the Armenians of Artsakh. I agree with what Erik Orsenna said earlier: we have this obligation, this duty to tell all the French people what is happening there, the danger and the existential threat that the Armenians are living today and that they have been living for a very long time, that concerns us directly.
Gilbert-Luc Devinaz, Senator, President of the France-Armenia Friendship Group, analyzes “The intervention at the beginning of the week of the Prime Minister Nikol Pachinian asking the Russian interposition forces to play their role in the Latchin corridor is a distress call to avoid the inevitable, the inevitable humanitarian catastrophe that we all fear. What we fear is that the Latchin corridor will become death row for the Armenian people who have been trapped. It is a sneaky, silent, unarmed but terrible war that is being played out in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“Azerbaijan must reopen the Latchin corridor without delay, because we cannot wait any longer.” The European Union must have a clear message towards Azerbaijan and must not hold a double speech. We must unite our voices at the level of the European Union to condemn Azerbaijan’s attitude. This blockade is contrary to humanitarian law and human rights. As of today, a humanitarian convoy must be able to cross the blockade and be transported to the population.
The representative of Nagorno-Karabakh in France, Hovhannes Guevorkian, concludes by going straight to the point: “Presenting this conflict as a simple territorial dispute is tantamount to concealing the rights of the 120,000 Armenians of Artsakh. The denial of rights is what we call the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. And he added: “We are ready to die to keep what is most human to us: our freedom.
Freedom, cherished freedom, all together so that freedom does not succumb there but lives for this small people, a threatened part of our humanity.