France says it will sell CAESAR howitzers to Armenia

Eurosatory international land and air event for defence and security in Villepinte

(Reuters) - France has signed a contract to sell CAESAR self-propelled howitzers to Armenia, Defence Minister Sebastien Lecornu said on Tuesday, as Yerevan deepens military ties with the West and moves away from its traditional ally Russia.

Lecornu posted on X that the contract was signed during a meeting with his Armenian counterpart Suren Papikyan. He did not say how many systems Armenia would acquire.

France has a large Armenian diaspora, and is traditionally one of Yerevan's strongest European backers.

Armenia is formally allied to Russia, but has in recent years pivoted diplomatically and militarily towards Western countries, accusing Moscow of failing to protect it from long-time rival Azerbaijan. Russia has rejected the criticism, and warned Armenia against flirting with the West.

Azerbaijan in September 2023 retook its breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, securing a decisive victory in a conflict that had lasted more than three decades, and prompting a mass exodus of the province's ethnic Armenian population.

(Reporting by Felix Light; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)