Azerbaijan tells Paris not to ‘intervene’ over Frenchman’s arrest as tensions run high

Azerbaijan told France Wednesday not to “intervene” in its internal affairs after Baku arrested a Frenchman on espionage charges with tensions running high between the two countries.

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Baku has accused France of supporting Azerbaijan’s arch-enemy Armenia, both diplomatically and militarily, and of seeking to fuel tensions in the South Caucasus.

French national Martin Ryan was arrested on December 4 last year, according to Azerbaijan authorities, suspected of “espionage”.

Paris has criticised his detention as “arbitrary”, claims which Baku has called “null and void”.

“This baseless statement is another attempt to distort the reality, and intervene into the internal affairs of Azerbaijan,” the Azerbaijan foreign ministry said in a statement.

The foreign ministry said that French embassy officials have visited him several times since his detention.

A court has ruled that he will be held in pre-trial detention for four months.

Diplomatic tensions between Paris and Baku escalated at the end of December, when Azerbaijan ordered two French diplomats to leave the country.

France declared two Azerbaijani diplomats “persona non grata” as a reciprocal measure.

In November, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev accused France of inciting conflict in the Caucasus by arming Armenia.

Azerbaijan and Armenia have in the last three decades fought three wars over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which was seized by Armenian forces when the Soviet Union fell apart.

In the latest war, Azerbaijan took total control of Karabakh in a surprise offensive last year.

Read moreNagorno-Karabakh conflict: How Azerbaijan forced Armenia to back down

The move sparked some international condemnation, including from France, but also hope of a settlement to end years of conflict between Baku and Yerevan.

Paris has also linked Azerbaijani figures to a disinformation campaign aimed at tarnishing France’s reputation as host of the 2024 Olympic Games, according to a report seen by AFP in November. France is home to a large Armenian diaspora.

(AFP)

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