France's Sarkozy arrives in Armenia for state visit

6th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Armenia on Thursday for the first stage of a two-day swing through the Caucasus that will also take him to Azerbaijan and Georgia.

Sarkozy and his delegation including four ministers, film director Alain Terzian and singers Charles Aznavour and Helene Segara, were greeted at the airport by Armenian President Serge Sarkisyan.

He will start his visit by meeting with the Patriarch of Armenia's Christian church, and then visit the Genocide Memorial Museum to pay respects to Armenians killed by the Ottomans in 1915.

A century later, this issue is likely to overshadow the visit of Sarkozy, who angered Turkey ahead of his election in 2007 by backing a law aimed at prosecuting those who refuse to recognise the event as a genocide.

The French lower house of parliament later rejected the measure, infuriating an Armenian diaspora of some 500,000 people.

Sarkozy has also indicated his ambition to bring Armenia and neighbouring Azerbaijan forward in the stalled peace process over the tiny Nagorny Karabakh region.

But just as the French leader called out to the two rivals to "take the risk of peace" in an interview Wednesday evening, Baku reported that two soldiers were shot dead from the Armenian side along the border with the unrecognised republic.

Seventeen soldiers have now been reported killed this year along the ceasefire line in Karabakh. Armenian separatists backed by Yerevan seized the territory from Azerbaijan in a war in the 1990s that left some 30,000 dead.

Despite years of talks since the 1994 ceasefire, the two sides have still to sign a final peace deal.

© 2011 AFP

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