Azerbajian is accused of stirring tentions in French overseas territories. EPA-EFE/MOHAMMED BADRA


Azerbaijan hosts event promoting Polynesian ‘decolonisation’ from France


Azerbaijani parliamentarians have hosted elected French Polynesian officials at a conference on the decolonization” of their territory.

In a move angering Paris, Azerbaijani sources said  the purpose of the four-day visit was “to explore opportunities for establishing parliamentary, economic, humanitarian, educational, scientific, sporting and healthcare collaborations between Azerbaijan and French Polynesia”.

However, during a news conference regarding the visit, Marania Vaianui, foreign relations adviser with Tavini, the ruling party of French Polynesia, made clear her party wanted to kick France out of the region.

“We seek support from 193 countries. Our aim is the freedom of our people, enabling us to liberate our lands and utilize our natural resources efficiently,” she said, denouncing France as a country that “keeps ignoring UN resolutions”.

Vaianui also expressed her gratitude to Azerbaijan for supporting French Polynesia, reported .

Azernews added: “It’s important to highlight that the Tavini party has been fighting for the independence of French Polynesia for many years, freed from French slavery.”

Mainland France is not amused by the so-called Baku Initiative Group (BIG) and its conference titled: “The Right to Decolonization of French Polynesia: Challenges and Prospects.”

François-Xavier Bellamy, leading the European Parliament election list for the French center-right Republicans party (LR), railed against the Azeri authorities on social media.

“How long will Azerbaijani President [Ilham] Aliyev be allowed to fracture France?” he asked about

Le Figaro contacted the Azerbaijani Embassy in Paris, which claimed that the government of Azerbaijan did not initiate the BIG conference.

The embassy further pointed out that LR received “separatist Armenian representatives [ie the authorities of Nagorno-Karabakh] in the French Senate”, and “Azerbaijan did not react because it, similarly, had nothing to do with the French Government.”

“It is therefore time for this false trial of alleged interference to stop,” the embassy stated.

Le Figaro noted that Azerbaijan had a single legislative chamber, dominated by the ruling party of President Aliyev.

It is not the first time Azerbaijan has invited separatists from French territories to visit. In July, 2023 it held a conference in Baku, inviting and paying expenses for guests from French Guiana, New Caledonia and French Polynesia.

That led to the creation of the BIG group, working on the development of “French liberation and anti-colonialist movements”.

Earlier in May this year, the group published a statement condemning France for its policies regarding New Caledonia.

In October 2023, the executive director of the group Abbas Abbasov said that, in French overseas regions, “human rights, the right to self-expression is violated and the local population is actually deported”.

He also accused France of being a “neocolonial power”.

Following the French National Assembly’s approval of changes to voting rules on the archipelago earlier in May — expanding the right to vote to more French people living locally — New Caledonia has seen violent protests.

Indigenous Kanaks and the Socialist National Liberation Front oppose the changes, fearing a loss of influence among the native Kanak population.

French interior minister Gérald Darmanin accused Azerbaijan on May 15 of collaborating with independence movements in the region to destabilize the island.

“I regret that some of the pro-independence leaders in New Caledonia have made a deal with Azerbaijan, that’s undeniable,” he said.

The accusations of foreign interference led to France temporarily banning the social media platform TikTok.

Azerbaijani flags appeared alongside Kanak symbols in the protests on the South Pacific archipelago, while a group linked to the Baku authorities has openly backed separatists while at the same time condemning Paris.

Azerbaijan said the accusations were “unfounded” and “insulting”.

Tavini representatives claimed the BIG was “an NGO like any other”.

Relationships between Azerbaijan and France have been bad for some time now. In October 2023, France chose to send military aid to Armenia after Azerbaijan annexed Nagorno-Karabakh, “so that it can ensure its defense”, Paris said at the time.

In December 2023, a reporter for the Azerbaijan State news agency Azertag was refused entry to New Caledonia, despite reportedly having a visa.

Paris has already given Armenia €12.5 million in humanitarian aid and French officials back the notion of slapping European Union penalties on Baku.

France is a long-time ally of Armenia, Azerbaijan’s neighbor and historic rival, with the EU country also being home to a large Armenian diaspora.

But, on an EU level, Azerbaijan is an important energy supplier in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — making Baku a crucial partner.