After the 2020 war, France and Azerbaijan’s relationship has worsened. France was in the favor of Armenia during this war. Also their parliament voted to recognize the “Republic of Artsakh.” Azerbaijan blamed France that this nation is not fair. This belief became stronger and stronger with the passage of time. Furthermore, the situation became worse in September 2023. This is when Azerbaijan took military action in Karabakh. After this action, France  called for sanctions against Azerbaijan for “ethnic cleansing”. At the same time France also faced criticism for control over places  like New Caledonia, which wanted independence.

Last July, the Baku Initiative Group against French colonialism was created. All of this was done in a  conference called “Towards the Complete Elimination of Colonialism.”

Different attendees attend the conference such as from New Caledonia, French Polynesia, French Guiana, and Martinique. Furthermore, separatists got strong support from Azerbaijan in November 2023. For this purpose  Azerbaijani flags were seen at a New Caledonian separatist rally. At the same time France called its ambassador to Baku due to poor diplomatic relations. Anne Bouillon stayed a few weeks there and returned back. 

In May, riots erupted on the island that caused many people to die. After passing the bill from the French Parliament, Paris announced a state of emergency. It allows French residents who have lived in New Caledonia for 10 years to vote, potentially undermining the political influence of the indigenous people. Paris faced criticism from the Baku Initiative Group. It attributes the violence to French colonialism and backing the Kanaky people. Furthermore, French Internal Affairs minister, Gerald Darmanin blamed Azerbaijan for meddling in the France political situation. Also he accused Azerbaijan of fueling the protestors via different social media platforms. As a result many protest leaders had forged alliances with Baku.

Ambassador Bouillon visited Karabakh after a few days of disagreement.  France became the last country whose diplomat visited the recently liberated territories, following the U.S. Ambassador’s visit to Shusha in early May. 

The importance of the Karabakh town, Lachin, is less to Azerbaijan as compared to Susha. It is a town and  its road connecting Armenia and Karabakh have been points of contention between Baku and other countries, notably France. Furthermore, the Azerbaijan foreign affair ministry received a calling letter from the French ambassador. It is the time when Paris tried to send aid via the Lachin road, which Azerbaijan declined. 

This unexpected visit by Ms. Bouillon could signal a shift in French-Azerbaijani relations.

France and Azerbaijan have a good relationship until 2020. At this time France supported Armenia and challenged Azerbaijan strained relations. But after the personal involvement of France President Macron made the situation worse day by day. French media continue to portray the Karabakh conflict as ongoing, despite it being resolved.

France and Azerbaijan move towards improving their relationship. This improvement of 2 long- lasting rivals has placed Paris in a difficult position. France is in the favor of Armenia over the Armenian government itself.

As the EU-Azerbaijan delimitation process begins and relations between the EU and Azerbaijan improve, proposals to sanction Baku have proven unrealistic. Now, France must decide whether to continue an ineffective confrontation that offers no positive outcomes or quietly accept the changing realities.

Many in France mocked Mr. Darmanin’s comments. Treating Azerbaijan as a major rival could further diminish France’s prestige as a global power, which has already been tarnished by its failures in Africa. Some French politicians, including Senators Georges Naturel and Raphaël Glucksmann, have admitted that there is no direct evidence of Azerbaijan’s involvement in violent protests.

Paris really wants to improve its relationship with Baku. This is due to its increased focus on Turkey and Central Asia. Also France has been working to improve relations with Ankara. Also  needing Turkish support for greater European strategic autonomy, a goal President Macron has prioritized. 

This has become more urgent with potential shifts in U.S. policy, especially if Donald Trump returns to the White House.

There are many central Asian countries, where Paris has been actively engaging. It significantly includes Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. Both of these countries are important. The first country is crucial due to supplying uranium. At the same time the 2nd country is important for energy, security, and connectivity. 

The integration of Azerbaijan with Central Asia makes stable relations with Baku essential for those seeking to enter the region.