Van Rompuy: EU interested in deepening relations

European Council President Herman Van Rompuy has said on a visit to Baku that the European Union is interested in deepening its relations with Azerbaijan.

``Our aspirations and goals will be met only after we have established our relations in the conditions of peace, security and stability in the region,`` Van Rompuy said in a speech at the Azerbaijan University of Languages last Thursday.

The European Council president spoke of the importance of achieving regional stability and civil society`s supporting democratic development.

``Our relations with eastern partners do not build on economic cooperation alone, and we are also attaching great importance to civil society,`` Van Rompuy said. ``The more active civil societies are, the more we will see democracy gaining ground...Implementation of democratic reforms, protection of human rights and the rule of law will make its own contribution to the development of [regional countries`] cooperation with the European Union.``

He welcomed the release of nine opposition supporters jailed after participating in an unsanctioned rally in 2011, saying more such steps were needed.

Van Rompuy said the EU supports Azerbaijan in the conduct of further reforms.

``We applaud Azerbaijan`s efforts aimed at improving its human rights record and democratic development,`` he said.

Van Rompuy said the EU attaches great importance to the country`s increasing role in the region.

``Azerbaijan has also been elected a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. This entails great responsibility, because great confidence and trust have been vested in your country.``

The European Council president was granted the title of honorary doctor at the Azerbaijan University of Languages. Samad Seyidov, the university`s principal, handed a diploma to Van Rompuy.

President Ilham Aliyev, hosting the European Council president earlier in the day, said his visit to Azerbaijan is manifestation of his country`s partnership and friendship with the EU.

President Aliyev expressed confidence that Van Rompuy`s visit would be a good opportunity for him to closely acquaint with Azerbaijan and also give an impetus to further expansion of bilateral partnership.

Aliyev said Azerbaijan-EU relations cover all fields and hailed relations between Azerbaijan and European institutions, as well as with the EU, one of the resource-rich South Caucasus republic`s main energy partners.

Van Rompuy, for his part, said that along with economic and energy sectors, there is a good potential for developing bilateral relations in other fields.

The European Council president also noted that his visit would open up new opportunities for further expansion of bilateral relations.