By Sevil Mikayilova
The trip of Valerie Pecresse, the President of the Regional Council of Ile-de-France and a French presidential candidate, to the Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, apart from being openly and unquestionably illegal, has given rise to a question about her legal responsibility.
Madame Pecresse should be reminded that any person crossing a state border is legally obliged to comply with entry requirements of a given country, or have a visa, if necessary; otherwise he or she will be deported. This is a universal truth and norm acknowledged by the civilised world. If the lady in question thinks herself above the law, then one shudders to think of calamitous developments that will ensue if she makes it to the very top of the French state.
Her irresponsible behaviour first of all hurts France and the French people. If she is unable to understand the consequences of illegally entering another country’s territory, then it is very unlikely that she is in a position to grasp the burdens of the heavy responsibility that come with leading a country such as France. Evidently, the rule of law is not a notion held in high regard by Pecresse, as she is ready to trample on all sacrosanct and noble ideals to reach her purpose.
In his January 12 press conference, President Aliyev described Pecresse’s illegal entrance into Azerbaijan as provocation and an act aimed at President Macron. “Both the defence minister has sent several letters to his counterpart and objections were made to the head of the peacekeeping mission. The same steps were taken in connection with the recent illegal visit of Valerie Pecresse. We were told that they did not see it, did not know of it, that it fell out of focus, that she went there in an ordinary car, and so on. However, this doesn’t sound very convincing… It was an organised trip, because Valerie Pecresse could not go there with the escort she wanted and went with a very limited number of people… They went there secretly and returned. The news came out only when they had returned. They were probably afraid that we would have stopped them in the Lachin corridor. Because if we knew they were there, we wouldn't have let them back, clearly. The Lachin corridor is under our control. You have been to Shusha and seen it. We can stop any car there and no-one can tell us anything.”
One cannot help but conclude that Pecresse was taken aback by this perfectly veracious statement, and having understood that in a law-governed state she would not get any support for such a despicably blatant offence, she decided to play the victim and make a show out of the story. What is she appalled at? Are the gates of "Free France" open to everybody? Does France not have border checkpoints?
There is also an open letter signed by a group of anti-Azerbaijani and Turcophobe lawmakers, addressed to Macron, which gives rise to surprise and anger. No doubt, this letter will be of no avail, but the fact that there is such a large body of lawmakers, who supports such illegal acts, is troubling indeed. What did make the French legislators sign a letter full of legal and factual errors? Was it due to the lack of knowledge as to some basic legal points or prejudice?
The central question is why the French presidential candidate and the members of the French Senate are so recklessly putting the narrow and Islamophobia-driven agenda ahead of the national interests of France, which has a time-honoured tradition of robust secularism, tolerance and multiculturalism. Baku and Paris have worked flat out and round the clock over the past decades to forge a high-level relationship and now the hard-earn diplomatic gains are at risk. There is no sustainable logic to this.
In addition, France is a country with a sizeable Muslim minority, which constitutes 8 percent of the overall population. It cannot be within its best interests to pursue narrow Islamophobic policies at the expense of higher considerations and the values that underpin the very essence of France.
The presidential election that is set to take place in 2022 is expected to be a tough contest. It is profoundly regrettable that candidates are ready to sacrifice the colossal benefits of bilateral relations for the sake of ensuring the support of the 750,000 Armenian diaspora.
Eric Zemmour, another candidate for the post of President, has also visited Armenia recently, but he apparently was conscious of the fact that crossing the Azerbaijani border without a due permission was a red line and thus abstained from the wrongdoing. He is a controversial figure in France. Interestingly enough, the language employed by him was proven to be so toxic in the past that, he was fined by a French court for his anti-Muslim rant.
However, it appears that for Madame Pecresse, who is also a former member of the National Assembly, there is no red line within a legal domain and she will stop at nothing to burnish her image as a good friend of Armenians. We respectfully remind the presidential hopeful in question that her illegal trip to the Azerbaijani territory is very damaging to Azerbaijan-France relations, regional security and stability, and, it is worth reiterating that “separatism” is alien to the contemporary architecture and values of Europe.
There is no doubt that the government of Azerbaijan will always defend the nation's territorial integrity and sovereign rights, and the protection of the security and inviolability of the state border will always remain a duty of the highest importance.