Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes rage as Macron denounces ‘jihadist’ deployment

French President Emmanuel Macron said militants had been deployed to Nagorny Karabakh in a “serious” new development. (File/AP)
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Updated 02 October 2020

Armenia-Azerbaijan clashes rage as Macron denounces ‘jihadist’ deployment

  • The West and Moscow renewed calls to halt several days of fighting over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region that has left more than 130 dead
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump and Macron urged the two sides to return to negotiations

SREPANAKERT, Azerbaijan: Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have intensified their shelling as French President Emmanuel Macron said militants had been deployed to Nagorny Karabakh in a “serious” new development.
The West and Moscow renewed calls to halt several days of fighting over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region that has left more than 130 dead and threatened to draw in regional powers Turkey and Russia.
In a joint appeal on Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin, US President Donald Trump and Macron urged the two sides to return to negotiations aimed at resolving their longstanding territorial dispute.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani leader Ilham Aliyev have both rejected the idea of holding talks, with the Armenian leader stating: “Nagorno-Karabakh cannot disarm, because it would lead to genocide.”
“The people who live there face an existential threat,” Pashinyan told French newspaper Le Figaro.
But Russia suggested it was making progress in diplomatic efforts with Turkey, a firm supporter of Azerbaijan in the conflict.
It said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu had confirmed they were ready for “close coordination” to stabilize the situation.
In Martuni, a small town in Karabakh around 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the front line, residents took refuge in cellars as heavy shelling by Azerbaijan killed four civilians and wounded 11.
Artak Aloyan, a 54-year-old construction worker sheltering in his basement with an elderly neighbor, vowed to stay despite the worst clashes the contested region has seen for years.
“I built this house with my own hands. I will not go anywhere, that’s that,” he told AFP after a rocket attack. “I will die here in the last battle.”

The rival Caucasus nations have been locked in a bitter stalemate over Karabakh since the collapse of the Soviet Union when the ethnic Armenian region broke away from Azerbaijan.
In the fiercest clashes in years, 136 people have been confirmed dead in fighting that has raged for five days.
The Armenian defense ministry said fighting had intensified and its troops had repelled Azerbaijani attacks, downing helicopters and destroying drones and armored vehicles.
It said Azerbaijani forces had fired on two villages inside Armenia, close to Karabakh, killing one civilian.
Armenian Deputy Prime Minister Tigran Avinyan said that 1,280 Azerbaijani troops had been killed and 2,700 wounded since Sunday, with both sides making claims of inflicting heavy casualties.
Azerbaijan’s defense ministry said its forces had carried out “crushing artillery strikes” on Armenian troops. It denied claims that one of its helicopters was shot down and had crashed in Iran.
The two sides have accused each other of shelling civilian areas and ignored repeated calls from international leaders to halt the fighting.
Putin, Macron and Trump called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” and urged the warring sides to commit to talks.

Yerevan is in a military alliance of ex-Soviet countries led by Moscow and has accused Turkey of dispatching mercenaries from northern Syria to bolster Azerbaijan’s forces in the Karabakh conflict.
It also claimed earlier this week that a Turkish F-16 fighter jet flying in support of Baku’s forces had downed an Armenian SU-25 warplane, but Ankara and Baku denied the claim.
Pashinyan reiterated claims that mercenaries had joined the conflict, saying Azerbaijan and Turkey were fighting “with the help and involvement of foreign terrorist fighters.”
“This terrorism equally threatens the United States, Iran, Russia, and France,” he added.
His calls were echoed by Macron, who earlier said intelligence reports had established that 300 Syrian fighters drawn from “jihadist groups” from the Syrian city of Aleppo had passed through Turkey en route for Azerbaijan.
The French president said that a “red line has been crossed, which is unacceptable” and demanded an explanation from Ankara.
Azerbaijan’s ally, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, has signalled his country’s full backing for Baku’s military and on Thursday called for Armenian troops to leave Karabakh.

Armenia has recorded the deaths of 104 soldiers and 13 civilians. Azerbaijan has not reported any military casualties but said 19 civilians were killed after Armenian shelling.
Karabakh’s declaration of independence from Azerbaijan sparked a war in the early 1990s that claimed 30,000 lives, but it is still not recognized as independent by any country, including Armenia.
Armenia and Karabakh declared martial law and military mobilization Sunday, while Azerbaijan imposed military rule and a curfew in large cities.
Talks to resolve the conflict have largely stalled since a 1994 cease-fire agreement.


How French citizens of Arab origin perceive secularism

Updated 8 min 59 sec ago

How French citizens of Arab origin perceive secularism

  • Secularism “the French way” is running up against a wall of incomprehension in the Arab-Muslim world

LONDON: The opinion poll carried out jointly by Arab News and YouGov provides detailed data on the relationship of French people of Arab origin to secularism in France and reveals a generally benevolent view of the French model.

Indeed, 65 percent of the people questioned affirm that they would defend the French values of secularism in their country of origin. Among the over-45s 80 percent share this opinion. Less than half (46 percent) believe that the French model is not appropriate for Arab countries.

Secularism “the French way” is running up against a wall of incomprehension in the Arab-Muslim world, as strong tensions have demonstrated in recent weeks with some countries calling for a boycott of France.

The French model is mainly based on a triptych set out in the 1905 law on the separation of churches and state: the separation of politics and religion, state neutrality and respect for freedom of conscience. Even though the 1905 law was passed in an anti-clerical context, it is not fundamentally hostile to religion.

The French of Arab origin largely adhere to the 1905 definition of secularism but are reluctant to go beyond it. So 62 percent are opposed to the state restricting the wearing of religious clothing, with the proportion even higher among the younger generation (71 percent). However, responses varied according to the level of income. Of those questioned 34 percent of people with an income below €20,000 ($24,000) per year are in favor of more restrictive laws, compared to 49 percent of people with an income above €40,000.

Since the turn of the century, several laws have been adopted to limit the wearing of religious symbols, such as the 2004 law prohibiting the wearing of religious symbols in schools, and the 2010 law prohibiting the wearing of the burqa in public spaces.

“The French Muslims have generally accepted these new laws and respect them, but are worried about new regulations treating Muslims very differently from other believers,” said Haoues Seniguer, lecturer at Sciences Po Lyon University and a researcher at the Triangle laboratory (ENS/CNRS).

INNUMBERS

  • 65% willing to defend French secularism in their country of origin.
  • 62% oppose state restrictions on wearing religious clothing.

More and more politicians are calling for strong measures in a more radical secularism, in particular to limit the wearing of the veil in public spaces, for example at universities, or when the parents of pupils accompany school trips.

There are two visions of secularism in France. On one hand, there is the liberal legacy of the Third Republic embodied by the French statesman Aristide Briand — who served 11 terms as prime minister and introduced the law of 1905 — for which secularism does not have to interfere with the religiosity of individuals. On the other hand, there is a militant secularism, which considers secularism as a form of individual emancipation with regard to religion.

This second vision of secularism is on the rise today, and it is creating tensions among French Muslims, Seniguer said.

The polarization around the debate on Islam and secularism is not new. “Militant secularism was reinforced at the beginning of the 1990s, in a context of the growing visibility of Muslims in the public spaces and of identity claims, as illustrated by the affair of the scarf of Creil in 1989 (when three Muslim girls were suspended for wearing scarves in school),” Seniguer said.

Moreover, this period has also coincided with that of a globalized Islam and the advance of Islamists in several countries, such as the FIS in Algeria, which has sometimes manifested itself in violence.

The new law against separatism or “consolidating secularism and republican principles,” which has been toughened since the assassination of Samuel Paty, the teacher murdered in a Paris suburb in October, will be on the table of the Council of Ministers on December 9. Enough to further fuel lively new debates on the future of French secularism.