France and Azerbaijan Clash Over Arrest of French Citizen Amid Espionage Accusations
Baku/10.01.24/Turan: In a mounting diplomatic standoff, official Paris has accused Azerbaijan of unjustly detaining a French citizen, Martin Ryan, demanding his immediate release. The head of the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry's press service, Ayhan Hajizade, dismissed these allegations, asserting that the claims by the French Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs are groundless and amount to interference in Azerbaijan's internal affairs and its legitimate investigative process.
Azerbaijani Ambassador to France, Leyla Abdullayeva, confirmed Ryan's arrest on suspicion of espionage in an interview with France-Presse. Abdullayeva underscored that the French Embassy in Baku was promptly informed about the arrest. Martin Ryan, CEO of Mercorama LC, conducting business in Baku, vehemently denies the espionage charges levied against him.
Nizami Aliyev, the lawyer representing Martin Ryan, conveyed his client's plea of not guilty, asserting that Ryan was deceived by the French special services. Aliyev emphasized the baselessness of the allegations against his client.
On December 26, 2023, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry declared two French embassy employees persona non grata, instructing their departure within 48 hours. In retaliation, on December 27, the French Ministries of Europe and Foreign Affairs reciprocated by declaring two Azerbaijani Embassy employees in Paris persona non grata.
Security expert Ilham Ismail, Commenting on the situation in the "Difficult Question" program, dismissed Paris's claims, stating that Azerbaijan would not take such steps without grounds, particularly amid tense relations. Ismail suggested the potential link between Martin Ryan's detention and the expulsion of French embassy employees.
Amid the diplomatic fracas, revelations on December 20, 2023, indicated the firing of Bernard Emier, head of the French General Directorate of Foreign Intelligence (DGSE), by President Emmanuel Macron. The subsequent appointments of Nicholas Lerner and Celine Burton were attributed to intelligence failures, including activities in Azerbaijan. Ismail viewed these changes as indirect confirmation of the justification behind Martin Ryan's arrest.
The intensifying dispute underscores the complexities of international relations, leaving lingering questions about the nature of events surrounding Martin Ryan and the broader implications for diplomatic ties between Azerbaijan and France.