By Rashid Shirinov
Many European countries do not want to see what happened in Nagorno-Karabakh, Norica Nicolai, the European Parliament Rapporteur on the EU-Azerbaijan Comprehensive Agreement, told Euractiv on May 17.
“I remember that when I went to organize a meeting with people coming from Nagorno-Karabakh, internally displaced persons, they could not obtain visas from the French embassy in Baku to come to the European Parliament and give testimony about what happened after they had to leave Nagorno-Karabakh,” she said.
The rapporteur noted that she considers this as something done by an Armenian lobby.
“Armenian lobbies have a big influence. Unfortunately, many European countries react according to this lobby, they do not want to see what has happened in the area,” said Nicolai.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding regions. More than 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and over 1 million were displaced as a result of the large-scale hostilities. The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations.
Until now, Armenia controls fifth part of Azerbaijan’s territory and rejects implementing four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding regions.
In her interview, Nicolai noted that increasing the level of relations between Azerbaijan and the EU is good for both sides.
“For us especially, because there are a lot of European companies who do business in Azerbaijan. I believe that we need to support the Eastern Partnership at this moment, we need to look at what unites us, not the things that make us different,” the rapporteur mentioned.
She further noted that if the EU does not have Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova in the Eastern Partnership, it risks a failure in its neighborhood policy.
“If we are not close to our Eastern partners, we risk being isolated in a world that is more and more open and global,” Nicolai said.
Azerbaijan and the EU have a very strong base of cooperation on many different areas. The bilateral relations are regulated on the basis of a partnership and cooperation agreement, which was signed in 1996 and came into force in 1999. The agreement provides for wide-range cooperation in the areas of political dialogue trade, investment, in economic matters, legislation and culture. Since then, the EU has gradually expanded the scope of its assistance and cooperation with Azerbaijan.
Presently, a new comprehensive agreement is being developed in order to replace the agreement of 1996. The new document should better take account of the shared objectives and challenges the EU and Azerbaijan face today.
Rashid Shirinov is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow him on Twitter: @RashidShirinov
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