Baku, Azerbaijan, July 22
By Aygun Badalova - Trend:
Azerbaijan is the EU's reliable and strategic partner in the energy field, and we want to take this partnership further, President of European Council Donald Tusk said at the joint press conference with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in Baku on July 22.
One aim of the European energy union is to exclude the possibility of using gas as a threat, according to Tusk.
"The conflict in Ukraine shows that such threats are still possible," Tusk said.
"This is why the EU is dedicated to diversifying our supplies. And Azerbaijan is a main partner in this endeavor," he added.
"Today, we agreed to stand united on developing the Southern Gas Corridor - a project which is in our common strategic interest - and to make sure it is completed on time, whatever our competitors do. For Europe, it is a question of diversifying supply. For Azerbaijan, it is a question of diversifying demand," Tusk said.
He also added that Azerbaijan has the potential to become one of the EU's major commercial partners in the region. The EU, he said, is already Azerbaijan's main trade partner and one of its most important investors.
"We will expand these commercial relations further in the coming years. I recalled that good governance and rule of law are important for creating a favourable commercial and investment climate. The EU stands ready to assist here, if needed," Tusk added.
He also expressed the hope that that Azerbaijan will soon finalise its negotiations to join the WTO.
"We have discussed how best to move our relationship forward, through an ambitious new bilateral agreement. We agreed to set a brisk pace for our talks toward an Agreement on Strategic Partnership," Tusk said.
He said that during the meeting with the President of Azerbaijan it was also discussed the Eastern Partnership. "The EU's intention is to better reflect the individual wishes and interests of each partner as we develop this policy," Tusk said.
Tusk also reiterated that the EU supports the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan.
"The EU and its Member States have not recognized Nagorno-Karabakh," he said.
"The status quo is unsustainable and the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a priority for the EU. We continue to support the mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs," Tusk said.
With regard to the facilitate travel and direct contacts between peoples of the EU and Azerbaijan, Tusk said that he applauded the entry into force of the Visa Facilitation Agreement and the Readmission Agreement in the autumn of last year.
"This was an important step. Last year there were 70,000 visitors from Azerbaijan to the Schengen area. An increase by almost 20 percent from the year before. And one third of the visas we issue are now long-term multiple entry visas," he said.