EU seeks to move relations with Azerbaijan beyond “excellent strategic”

EU seeks to move relations with Azerbaijan beyond “excellent strategic”

By Gulgiz Dadashova

The European Union is interested in deepening and widening its relations with Azerbaijan beyond the excellent strategic cooperation in energy.

Maja Kocijancic, Spokeswomen to European Commission/Commissioner Hahn, wrote in an e-mail to AzerNews, while commenting on future of relations with Azerbaijan, the strongest economy in the South Caucuses.

Kocijancic said that the EU would like to maintain a dynamic and comprehensive dialogue on all aspects of bilateral relations, including in the field of human rights.

Azerbaijan and the EU have maintained good relations through the years and have become more closely linked with the energy projects. Azerbaijan is currently part of the European Neighborhood Policy and the Council of Europe.

The respect for democracy, principles of international law, human rights, and the principles of the market economy are the essential elements on which the EU-Azerbaijan partnership is based.

The spokeswoman noted that the three countries of the South Caucasus differ as regards the level of their relations with the EU.

"While Georgia has concluded an Association Agreement including a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area with the EU, Armenia has opted to join the Eurasian Economic Union, which is incompatible with the AA/DCFTA negotiated but not signed with the EU.

"Azerbaijan has expressed its interest in a strategic relationship with the EU without the high degree of political association and economic integration sought by some of the other Eastern Partners," she said.

Azerbaijan has concluded a Visa Facilitation Agreement and a Readmission Agreement together with a Mobility Partnership with the Member States of the EU. Azerbaijan has also signed a Protocol on Participation in EU Programmes and Agencies and has been negotiating an Aviation Agreement with the EU.

Kocijancic said the EU has a strategic energy relationship with Azerbaijan which it values as an element in its wider network of energy relationships in the Black Sea region.

Touching the protracted conflicts, particularly Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh, the spokeswoman said she backs the current format of the peace talks.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict which emerged as a result of Armenia's territorial claims towards Azerbaijan remains the major impediment to the regional development and contributes to the overall regional instability.

"The EU supports the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and its three co-chairs, including through the work of the EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, and complements them through enhanced support for peacebuilding activities across the conflict divide, aimed at facilitating the process of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict," she noted.

The EU calls on the sides to promote an environment conducive to progress in conflict settlement and to encourage and support related peace-building activities, Kocijancic said. "The EU is also ready to provide reconstruction and rehabilitation support to the regions affected by the conflict, once a peace deal is reached," she added.

Follow Gulgiz Dadashova on Twitter: @GulgizD

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