Federica Mogherini in Azerbaijan on 29 February and 1 March
High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini this morning concluded her visit to Azerbaijan, part of her tour of the Eastern Partnership countries after visits to Ukraine and Georgia in November 2015. The High Representative had meetings with President Ilham Aliyev and Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov yesterday to discuss a range of issues, including the future direction of EU-Azerbaijan relations, current global challenges and perspectives for cooperation in this respect. Today she met the representatives of civil society.
The European Union and Azerbaijan confirmed their willingness to move forward in many areas of cooperation, with the Eastern Partnership – the eastern dimension of the European Neighbourhood Policy - as the policy framework for our relationship, working together as partners and looking to develop relations to their full potential through a new bilateral agreement. The recently reviewed European Neighbourhood Policy, which has a special focus on the principle of differentiation, allows for the EU to recognise different situations, different agendas and different priorities of its neighbours, and to develop tailor-made approaches to each.
During her discussions with the President and the Foreign Minister, as well as with representatives of civil society, the High Representative stressed the high importance that the European Union attaches to the respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, including the freedom of expression and association. She invited the authorities to establish a new relationship of trust between the government and civil society at large, given that an open society is the best guarantee for long term stability and prosperity, and in this context also referred to a number of individuals presently in jail. Engagement with civil society is a prominent feature of the EU's cooperation in Azerbaijan, at all levels.
The High Representative reaffirmed that the European Union supports the territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of Azerbaijan, recalling that the European Union and its Member States have not recognised Nagorno-Karabakh. The peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict remains a top priority for the European Union, and we continue to support efforts towards peace, including through EU Special Representative Herbert Salber and the mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
Whilst in Baku, the High Representative also participated at the second meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council, alongside Vice-President of the Commission for Energy Union, Maroš Šefčovič. The High Representative reiterated that Azerbaijan is a strategic partner for the European Union with regard to energy security, with the Southern Gas Corridor playing an integral role in the EU's strategy to diversify its energy supply. Both the High Representative and her counterparts expressed their hope of expanding already substantial trade and commercial ties in the coming years; the European Union is Azerbaijan's main trading partner and one of the most important investors in the country.
The High Representative continues her tour today with a visit to Armenia.