Emergency meeting on the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh – Speech by Catherine Colonna, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, at the Security Council (21 September 2023)


Mr President,

I thank the Under-Secretary-General for his introduction.
France asked for this meeting of the Security Council to be held urgently in view of the seriousness of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh.

After massing a significant amount of troops and military equipment over the past several weeks, Azerbaijan decided to launch a large-scale military operation on 19 September. An operation which has mobilized massive land and air capabilities and has hit civilians. An operation nobody can believe wasn’t premeditated, even though efforts to find a negotiated solution were being stepped up, and that the day before, for the first time in three months, humanitarian aid was being delivered again.

France immediately condemned in the strongest terms this unacceptable offensive, which contravenes the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes enshrined in the UN Charter. It was by no means the only country. Many around this table also voiced their clear rejection of violence and arbitrary decisions, calling on Azerbaijan to show restraint and comply with international law.
As feared, the toll of these actions has been particularly heavy, with several hundred injured and dozens killed, including civilians, among whom were several children.

A ceasefire was announced yesterday. It was crucial. It is essential that it be observed.

Mr President,

It isn’t Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity which is at stake here. No one is disputing it. No one is threatening it. What’s at stake is the ability of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population to go on living there with its rights, history and culture respected. There can be no such guarantee when the stronger party deliberately puts pressure on the weaker one, when there’s the threat of an ongoing military intervention and when, for several months now, Nagorno-Karabakh has been subjected to a blockade which has prevented people from getting food, medicines and energy supplies.

France notes what President Aliyev said yesterday when he affirmed his wish to live in peace with Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians and safeguard their rights. Azerbaijan is bound by these remarks, it bears responsibility today for the fate of the population.

If Azerbaijan is genuinely keen to reach a peaceful, negotiated solution, it must now provide tangible guarantees:

  • it must commit to the discussions in good faith, ruling out any use of force or threat of force and agreeing that this dialogue focus on rights and safeguards for the people, with the international community’s support;
  • it must grant an amnesty to the forces which agreed to the ceasefire;
  • it must immediately and unconditionally restore traffic through the Lachin Corridor, in accordance with the order made by the International Court of Justice on 22 February 2023, and since confirmed by the Court;
  • finally, it must agree to an international humanitarian presence in Nagorno-Karabakh. This is essential as winter approaches.

Without these guarantees, there can be no solution.

Mr President,

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time that France has brought the seriousness of the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh to the Council’s attention. It isn’t the first time it has called for active efforts to be made to prevent a human tragedy and a worsening of the crisis, which risks profoundly destabilizing the South Caucasus region.

As the events of the past few days confirm, we cannot remain passive and look away from what is currently being played out in Nagorno-Karabakh, risking making ourselves complicit in the mass exodus of a population which is already suffering a great deal. Since yesterday, there have been several reports that many people are preparing to leave even though nearly 10% of Nagorno-Karabakh’s population has been displaced because of the offensive waged by Azerbaijan on 19 September.

This Council must actively help resolve the crisis. It must uphold the principles of the Charter and of international security by lending its active support in defining the parameters of a solution negotiated between Baku and the Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh. It must clearly voice its determination to enforce international law, at all times and everywhere. And it must remain vigilant in the face of any attempt to drag Armenia into these tragic events and use it as a pretext to challenge its territorial integrity.

Over the past few months, Prime Minister Pashinyan has demonstrated his sense of responsibility, his desire for de-escalation and his commitment to finding a negotiated solution with Azerbaijan, based on the recognition of and respect for each country’s territorial integrity, within precisely defined and demilitarized boundaries.

France is and will continue to be mobilized, within this Council and in all the relevant forums, to promote a just, lasting peace in the South Caucasus, for every population in the region. It is ready to work with all those pursuing the same goal.

Thank you.