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Hollande calls for special treatment for Russia-linked Armenia in EU trade deal

media François Hollande with Armenian President Serge Sarkissian and singer Charles Aznavour (C) on Monday Reuters/PAN Photo/Hrant Khachatryan

French President François Hollande has called for an “exceptional formula” to allow Armenia to have free-trade deals with both the European Union (EU) and with Russia. On a visit to Erevan Hollande also called on his hosts to welcome Turkey’s conciliatory statements over masscres during Wortld War I.

“I’m going to support Armenia’s effort to have its exceptional situation recognised as such in a formula that will have to be exceptional,” Hollande said at a joint press conference with Armenian President Serge Sarkissian on Tuesday.

In September 2013 Sarkissian took Armenia into a customs union with Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan, although it was due to sign a free-trade deal that it had been negotiating with the EU for some time two months later.

Armenia should have links to the EU because of its “aspirations, values and interest”, Hollande said, but it should not be forced to pull out of the Russian-led customs union because of its “special” geographic and political situation.

Sarkissian has supported the de-facto attachment of Crimea to Russia, which has been roundly condemned by the West, but Hollande refrained from direct criticism of his statement, simply saying that France is “attached to a principal in international law that is respect for territorial integrity”.

On Monday evening Hollande called on the Armenian government to welcome “messages of appeasement … wherever they come from” in an indirect reference to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s expression of condolences to the “grandchildren of Armenians killed in 1915”.

Armenia, which wants Turkey to recognise the massacres by Ottoman Empire troops as genocide, at the time said the statement was not enough.

Hollande went on to declare that “no door can be opened to negationism” and reminded his audience that France passed a law recognising the killings as genocide in 2001.

Background: France's Armenian genocide bill - Who? What? When? Where? Why?

The French president confirmed that he will attend ceremonies to commemorate the centenary of the killings in Armenia on 24 April next year.

Hollande is on a three-day tour of the Caucasus that is taking him to Azerbijan, Armenia and Georgia.

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