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Elmar [Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan] it has been a pleasure to welcome you again to Brussels, together with your delegation, for the 16th Cooperation Council between the European Union and Azerbaijan.
We had very open and constructive discussions, as always, be they here, in Baku, or elsewhere in our region.
Azerbaijan is a very important partner for the European Union, whose independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity the European Union fully supports.
We are currently in an important phase of negotiations, because we are hopefully in the final, crucial phase of negotiating our new, ambitious bilateral agreement, which I am sure will increase and deepen our relations. It will benefit all of our citizens, both in the European Union and in Azerbaijan.
We share the ambition to conclude the negotiations rapidly. Our teams are working in these very hours and we discussed a lot about how to move forward with the conclusion of these negotiations and, hopefully, after these negotiations have been concluded.
Another of our priorities that we discussed at length today is the peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Just last week, we witnessed a positive meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs. This, combined with the Paris Agreement in January that Foreign Ministers reached, increased communications at high level, and a significant decrease in ceasefire violations, give us some hope that the process can move forward and that both countries would follow up on their commitments and enter into negotiations without pre-conditions.
The European Union will continue to fully support the mediation efforts and proposals of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group Co-Chairs, including through our [EU] Special Representative [for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia], as well as some confidence-building measures. All would stand to benefit from lasting peace – not only Azerbaijani and Armenian citizens, but also beyond -, because lasting peace would help to enable the entire region to fulfil its potential.
Today, in our meeting, we also discussed the situation in the wider region, where the European Union and Azerbaijan share common interests and where we are already working together.
We also addressed important issues such as democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights. We still observe a limited space for civil society and human rights defenders in Azerbaijan, but we welcomed the recent pardoning of political prisoners by President [of Azerbaijan, Ilham] Aliyev and I conveyed this message to the Foreign Minister [Elmar Mammadyarov].
We also took stock of the progress in the implementation of the "20 Deliverables for 2020" as we agreed during the last Eastern Partnership Summit. I personally am very much looking forward to welcoming the [Foreign] Minister [Elmar Mammadyarov], together with his colleagues, back to Brussels next month for our Eastern Partnership Ministerial meeting and the high level conference for the 10th Anniversary of the Eastern Partnership. Let me conclude by saying that Azerbaijan has made a very important, sustained contribution to the development of the Eastern Partnership. As we discussed today, we both look forward to continuing to focus the initiative of the Eastern Partnership on bringing tangible results and benefits to our citizens’ lives.
So, Elmar [Mammadyarov], let me thank you for a constructive and good meeting, for all the efforts of you and your team. And let me thank especially our negotiating teams for the good work that has been carried out. You can count on the European Union’s full commitment to make this relationship even stronger in the years to come.
Q. Regarding the bilateral agreement, there are obviously a few outstanding issues. Can you be more precise on what they are? How realistic is it to have to initiate this agreement during this Commission mandate, as Minister [Elmar] Mammadyarov [Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan] said. This is the goal of the Azerbaijani side but is it realistic? About Nagorno-Karabakh, this is a process which is led by the OSCE and not by the EU. What exactly can the EU do? I can imagine a package in case of a settlement.
On our bilateral agreement, let me state very clearly that it is not only Azerbaijan's goal but it is also the European Union's goal to finalise negotiations as soon as possible and to initiate the agreement not only during our mandate but, I would say, even in the coming weeks.
Is it realistic? As we discussed with the Minister [Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan], whenever there is a strong political will, things become realistic. Inch'allah we might get there, with good will.
I will not elaborate on the points which are more difficult or still open – the 5-10% - because our teams are negotiating right now. I think it is a golden rule to avoid commenting publicly when you are negotiating, especially in the final phase of negotiations of an agreement, especially if you share the objective of concluding them successfully.
When it comes to Nagorno-Karabakh, you are perfectly right, the leading role is for the OSCE [Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe] and the Minsk Group Co-Chairs, but the European Union has been since the beginning very supportive of this process.
First of all, politically and diplomatically, including with the work of our Special Representative [for the South Caucasus and the Crisis in Georgia], but also with concrete action, not only for supporting a future settlement that we hope we will be able to accompany with measures and resources, but also already now, investing in people-to-people contacts, working with civil society and accompanying as we can at all different levels – including ours [at the level of Foreign Ministers] –, encouraging the parties to engage constructively as both Armenia and Azerbaijan are important partners for the European Union.
As I said, as we believe and as the Minister [Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan] said, a settlement of this conflict would be extremely beneficial not only for the people directly involved but also for the entire region, allowing the region to use its full potential which is enormous, from all different aspects.
The European Union is already concretely supporting some projects, including – as I said - on people-to-people, confidence building and as a key partner – the first trade and investment partner of both countries. We are already accompanying the two sides and the work of the Minsk Group Co-Chairs as much as we can, with full respect of the institutional role, but we are always ready to do everything that can be considered useful for a positive outcome of this.
Link to the video: https://tvnewsroom.consilium.europa.eu/permalink/208370
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