Azerbaijan, Baku, 21 January / corr Trend K.Ramazanova / The Resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict of Nagorno-Karabakh will help Azerbaijan assume its role as a bridge between the EU and Central Asia, according to Elmar Mammadyarov, the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister.
As the EU expansion moves further east, Central Asia, with its rich oil and gas resources, is becoming increasingly important, the minister said during an interview for The Wall Street Journal.
The EU must have a strong interest to develop stability and the economy in a region that could play a central role in helping Europe meet its energy needs. Closer relations with Azerbaijan can also be seen as part of a European outreach to Central Asia, he said. "I believe that Armenia would also benefit from regional integration and development, and should look beyond the lingering conflict. The resolution of this issue would not only improve our bilateral relations but could also improve Armenia's relationship with Turkey," Mammadyarov said.
"A European perspective of closer economic integration is as relevant to the Caspian as is the partnership with Russia and China. Azerbaijan is committed to pursuing all these links. However, a truly regional framework hinges on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, which is why this problem can no longer wait," he said.
The conflict between the two countries of the South Caucasus began in 1988 due to Armenian territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Since 1992, Armenian Armed Forces have occupied 20% of Azerbaijan including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and its seven surrounding districts. In 1994, Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement at which time the active hostilities ended. The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group ( Russia, France, and the US) are currently holding peaceful negotiations.