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Vahe Sarukhanyan

“Safe, Beautiful District” - Armenia Justifies €23M Price Tag for New Embassy in France

When news broke last month that Armenia plans to pay €23 million to purchase a building in Paris to house the country’s embassy in France many questioned the need to shell out so much and whether the money could be spent on more pressing domestic issues.

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safaryan justified the expenditure by noting the expansion of Armenian-French relations and the fact that the contract to use the building now housing the Armenian embassy comes due next year. He argued the current embassy isn’t adequate to meet future needs.

The current building in Paris housing Armenia’s embassy, at 9 Rue Viète in the 17th arrondissement, was provided free of charge by the Ecclesiastical Council of the Diocese of France in 1995.

Armenia Reviewed Thirty Purchase Options

At a February 15 government cabinet session Safaryan announced that the Armenian government reviewed thirty purchase options before making its decision.

The new building, in the French capital's sixteenth arrondissement, once belonged to former French President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing. While the exact address hasn’t been published, Hetq did some digging and located it at 9 Rue Bénouville, close to the Arc de Triomphe.

The building has three entrances with consecutive addresses - 7, 9, 11 Rue Bénouville. A plaque at Beneuville 11 notes that Giscard d'Estaing lived there from 1956 until his death in December 2020.

His widow, Anne-Aymone Giscard d'Estaing, sold the house for €19 million in September 2022, saying it was too large for her needs.

Armenia’s foreign ministry told Hetq that the house is being sold by Pavillon de Lamballe, a French real estate company owned by businessman Charles Beigbeder. Pavillon de Lamballe purchased it from d’Estaing’s widow.

When asked about the €23 million price tag, the Armenian foreign ministry told Hetq that the building was previously put up for sale for €30 million and that several appraisers peg its value at €25-26 million.

Total Cost of New Building is €24.7 Million

The total amount to be paid by Armenia for the new building is €24.7 million when taxes and other purchase fees are added on. Armenia, however, can avoid the €1.472 million state tax on the property’s value since foreign diplomatic missions in France enjoy tax privileges. Armenia has already filed for such an exemption.

The ministry added that it hasn’t yet estimated the cost of maintaining the new building.

When asked if the building is registered in France as a historic/cultural landmark and whether such a denomination creates an additional financial burden for Armenia when purchasing/maintaining it, the ministry responded that the circumstance of having historical value does not imply additional expenses in any way for Armenia.

Giscard d'Estaing isn’t the only French luminary linked to the buildings at 7, 9, 11 Rue Bénouville constructed at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries.

A plaque adorning the 7 Rue Bénouville unit shows it was designed by notable French architects Émile Molinié and Charles Nicod. The 11 Rue Bénouville unit, constructed in 1921, was designed by Jacques Debat-Ponsan, the uncle of Michel Debre who served as French prime minister (1959-1962) during the tenure of French President Charles de Gaulle. 9 Rue Bénouville was built in 1885 by architect A. Bérard.

Foreign Ministry Says New Embassy Has Logistical, Security Advantages

Armenian Deputy Foreign Minister Mnatsakan Safaryan, at a February 15 government cabinet session, claimed the new building has advantages in terms of logistics and security.

When Hetq asked the ministry for clarification it responded that the 16th arrondissement “is considered one of the most beautiful, safe and luxurious districts of Paris.”

“In terms of logistics, the location of the building provides easy access to the key state bodies of France, as well as to the highway bypassing Paris, reducing the time of movement,” the ministry responded, adding that this is why more than seventy embassies are in the area.

Using Google Street View, one can see a small overpass connecting the future Armenian embassy to the neighboring building that houses Russia’s trade mission in France.

Hetq asked the foreign ministry if this viaduct was one of the “security advantages” it notes for purchasing the Bénouville building.

The ministry replied that the overpass had been sealed years ago.

Further reading: £17.4 Million: Armenia Purchases London Building to House U.K. Embassy

Comments (4)

"elevated our cause to the world stage" ? What cause is there after the worst political/military/governance defeat in recent Armenian history?
A great location for a great country like Armenia. Congratulations! The street camera also shows a nearby building with an American flag which further validates the location’s desirability. $23 million Euros is nothing for a remarkable building that will serve as the Armenian embassy for generations to come.
What France may or may not provide Armenia in terms of "defensive" military capabilities is purely conjecture now. Did France or India, that also has provided some military equipment, do anything to stop Azerbaijan either in 2020 or in September 2023 when it recaptured Artsakh? Armenian officials merely argue that the current embassy is "inadequate" without providing specifics. Effective diplomacy is more than just polishing your country's image by moving into a landmark building in a chic Paris neighborhood. Is Armenia's diplomatic corps up to the task of moving in and actually using the new premises effectively and efficiently? This remains to be seen.
$23 million is a small investment considering the amount of support, encouragement and military assistance that France is providing Armenia not only in the last year, but going forward. They have elevated our cause to the world stage. No, our problems are not resolved and we are not out of danger but we need strong allies like France and unlike the other Ally that stabbed us in the back recently.

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