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France accuses Azerbaijan of supporting riots in New Caledonia 

17 May 2024
An Azerbaijani flag flying at a demonstration in New Caledonia in March. Screengrab via Franceinfo

France has accused Azerbaijan of supporting rioters against French rule in New Caledonia, a French territory in the South Pacific. 

The Guardian quoted French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin as saying this was ‘a reality’. 

‘I regret that some of the Caledonian pro-independence leaders have made a deal with Azerbaijan. It’s indisputable’, Darmanin said. 

Azerbaijani media reported that the Baku Initiative Group (BIG) had organised a video conference on Thursday, attended by representatives of ‘movements fighting for independence’ in New Caledonia, French Polynesia, French Guiana, Martinique, Guadeloupe, and Corsica, all French overseas territories and dependencies, in solidarity with indigenous people in New Caledonia. The attendees later issued a joint statement condemning French rule and advocating for the territories’ independence. 

The Baku Initiative Group was officially established on 6 July 2023 by participants of a conference ‘Towards the complete elimination of colonialism’ held in Baku, with the stated aim of supporting groups that were fighting for freedom from colonialism. 

Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday condemned Darmanin’s statements, and rejected his claims. 

‘Azerbaijan once again strongly condemns the French side’s insulting expressions against Azerbaijan and urges to stop the smear campaign against Azerbaijan with unacceptable accusations, such as the massacre of Armenians’, the statement read. 


Bahruz Samadov, a researcher at Charles University Prague, told OC Media that Azerbaijan’s use of anticolonial discourse was not genuine.

‘While it may seem like Azerbaijan supports the values of these movements, these steps are only political and a reaction to France. France reacted sharply after the Second Nagorno-Karabakh War and the events of September 2023 […] and this is like Azerbaijan’s reply to France’, said Samadov. 

Relations between Azerbaijan have become increasingly strained since the 2020 Second Nagorno-Karabakh War, with France growing increasingly critical of Azerbaijan’s handling of the conflict with Armenia and increasing its support of Armenia.

‘It shows how Azerbaijan's foreign political discourse has changed’, said Samadov, adding that the position allowed Azerbaijan to reject European values and claims regarding human rights. 

Samadov mentioned that ‘selective anticolonialism’ was used in other authoritarian countries, including Russia and Turkey. 

‘It is not new, and Azerbaijan has instrumentalised this discourse, using it whenever convenient’, said Samadov. 

[Read more: Opinion | How Azerbaijan uses ‘anti-colonialism’ to authoritarian ends]

French media reported that Azerbaijani flags had been seen at the demonstrations in New Caledonia earlier in the year, including in March. 

A year earlier, New Caledonia’s Permanent Commissioner for Foreign Affairs, Mikael Forrest, visited Azerbaijan to join the closing ceremony of the Non-Aligned Movement Contact Group Summit on the fight against COVID-19, and met with Azerbaijani MPs. 

The Baku Initiative Group also organised conferences on ‘Decolonisation: a silent revolution’ at the United Nations in September 2023, and a conference on  ‘Neo-colonialism: violation of human rights and injustice’ in October 2023. The latter was attended by the head of Azerbaijan’s Presidential Administration Foreign Policy Department, the country’s Public Defender, and representatives of French overseas territories and dependencies. 

In December 2023, the correspondent for Azerbaijani state news agency Azertac was expelled from New Caledonia. 

Since the riots in New Caledonia began this week, the Baku Initiative Group has declared its support for people ‘suffering from French colonial policy’. 

‘Azerbaijan's actions can’t harm France’, says Samadov. ‘Azerbaijan wants to just say that if you criticise us and do not recognise our victory we may cause you problems in supporting the independence of your colonies.’

He added that Azerbaijan had not spoken about the colonial histories of other countries. Britain’s overseas territories have not been subject to Azerbaijani criticism, with British businesses making substantial investments in Azerbaijan. 

Read in Armenian on CivilNet.
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