MARCH 4 (The Conway Bulletin) — On a trip to Baku, Federica Mogherini, a European Commission vice-president in charge of external affairs, said the European Union and Azerbaijan need to work hard to improve relations which have soured over the past few years (Feb. 29).
Ms Mogherini made the comments during a two-day trip to Baku and to Armenia’s capital Yerevan.
“It is time for a new chapter in the relations between the EU and Azerbaijan. We need an all-round strategic partnership between us,” she said during a speech to the Southern Gas Corridor Advisory Council.
“We have not always seen eye to eye in all matters, and we know that differences will remain between us in some areas. This is normal in international relations and often in European and even national politics.”
Europe has been vocal over what it has said is a systematic crackdown by the Azerbaijani authorities against civil society and the media. The Azerbaijani government has responded by accusing Europe and the United States of meddling in affairs which aren’t theirs and of trying to stir a revolution.
The result has been a drift by Azerbaijan towards Russia.
Still, Europe and Azerbaijan have been working together on a pipeline network running from the Caspian Sea to central Europe.
Europe wants to reduce its reliance on Russia for gas and its sees Azerbaijan as the solution. The pipeline network is dubbed the Southern Gas Corridor.
Ms Mogherini was careful to avoid direct mention of human rights and media freedom in her speech but the underlying message would have been clear and her speech was an important step towards, tentatively, mending Azerbaijan-EU relations.
>>This story was first published in issue 270 of The Conway Bulletin, the leading independent newspaper for Central Asia and the South Caucasus
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