France's Zemmour calls for defence of Armenia, a ‘Christian’ nation in ‘Islamic ocean’
Eric Zemmour, far-right candidate for the 2022 French presidential election, called on Sunday to better defend Armenia, a "Christian" nation in the middle of "an Islamic ocean".
During a visit to the monastery of Khor Virap, his first overseas trip as a candidate, Zemmour invoked what he described as a historical clash between Christianity and Islam.
“It is the great confrontation between Christianity and Islam which is reborn today,” he said. “We see it here with a Christian nation, which intends to remain so, in the middle of an Islamic ocean.”
Zemmour delivered the remarks following a Christian mass at the historic monastery located near the border with Turkey.
The 63-year-old presidential candidate for the Reconquete party has been described by some as "France's Trump" because of his hostile rhetoric on migration and Islam.
Upon his arrival at Yerevan airport in Armenia on Saturday, a small group of protesters shouted slogans against Zemmour, describing him as a racist, and some held up signs in French that read, “Not welcome, Eric Zemmour”.
The majority Christian Armenia and its predominantly Muslim neighbour Azerbaijan fought a short but bloody war last year for control over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, leaving 6,500 people dead.
The defeated Armenia was forced to agree a ceasefire and cede several Azerbaijani regions it controlled around this separatist region.
Since then, tensions have remained high and several incidents have raised fears of a resumption of fighting. France has repeatedly called for respect for the ceasefire.
However, this conflict between Baku, supported by Turkey, and Yerevan, which is part of an alliance led by Russia, has never taken on a religious tinge, with Azerbaijan being one of the most secular countries in the world.
"We have seen French people who fail in their duty because they talk but they do not really defend Armenia," said Zemmour.
Armenian genocide memorial
Zemmour is also scheduled to visit the Armenian genocide memorial near Yerevan.
France, home to a sizeable Armenian diaspora, is among some 30 countries that recognise the mass killings of Armenians during the First World War as "genocide".
An estimated 1.5 million Armenians were killed in Ottoman-controlled territory between 1915 and 1923, the majority before 1919, through systematic deportations, starvation and murder.
Most of the killings took place during the First World War. Turkish forces subsequently fought against allied forces, including France, the United Kingdom and Russia, which intended to occupy and partition Anatolia during what Turkey calls the Turkish War of Independence.
Turkey acknowledges that atrocities took place against Armenians during the war, but says the killings were not a part of a systematic campaign and do not amount to genocide. Azerbaijan likewise disputes the term.
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