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Azerbaijan arrests French national for espionage

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Azerbaijani authorities have arrested a French national suspected of being a spy, Azerbaijan’s envoy to France said Tuesday amid a diplomatic spat with Paris which has been selling weapons to Baku’s rival, Armenia.

“Suspected of committing acts of espionage, Martin Ryan … was arrested on December 4,” Azerbaijan’s ambassador in Paris, Leyla Abdullayeva, told French newswire AFP.

Judicial authorities then “ordered his detention for a duration of four months,” the ambassador said, adding that the French embassy in Baku was informed “as soon as he was arrested.”

The news comes amid escalating diplomatic tensions between Azerbaijan and France over Paris’ support for Armenia.

France, which is home to the largest Armenian diaspora community in Europe, has stepped up its defense cooperation with Armenia in recent months.

Following Azerbaijan’s seizure of the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, the French government in October announced it would sell air defense systems to Yerevan.

In December, Baku expelled two French diplomats over “conduct that is not compatible with their diplomatic status.” The French foreign ministry retaliated by expelling two Azerbaijani diplomats a day later, and said it “categorically reject[ed] the allegations.”

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