Azerbaijan: MEPs worried by military conflict and continuous abuses

Azerbaijan: MEPs worried by military conflict and continuous abuses

ING2 AFET SEDE DARP DMAG joint extraordinary meeting — Hearing on ’ Recent Cases of Foreign Interference in the European Parliament — Allegations of Corruption ’

In a new report, MEPs strongly condemn the latest military aggression by Azerbaijan against Armenia last year, while recognising Azerbaijan’s role as a potential energy partner for the EU.

In a report assessing the state of EU relations with Azerbaijan, the Foreign Affairs Committee dedicates a large section to the country’s deeply-rooted military conflict with neighbouring Armenia over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has resulted in renewed violence with ensuing casualties and destruction in recent years. In the text, MEPs strongly condemn the latest large-scale military aggression by Azerbaijan in September 2022, which broke with previously agreed ceasefire attempts and has seen Azerbaijani troops occupy sovereign Armenian territory.

The report urges the leadership of both Azerbaijan and Armenia to overcome their differences and agree on concrete steps forward to ensure durable and sustainable peace. MEPs reaffirm, however, that in order to be effective, a comprehensive peace treaty must include provisions that guarantee the integrity of both countries’ sovereign territory, the rights and security of the Armenian population residing in Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the prompt and safe return of all refugees and internally displaced people to their homes.

The text also expresses serious concerns about the current Azerbaijani blockade of the so-called Lachin corridor, which links Armenia with Nagorno-Karabakh, and urges the Azerbaijani authorities to ensure freedom and security of movement along that passage.

Potential energy partner with troubling human rights record

Zooming in on the energy sector, the report recognises the increasingly important role played by Azerbaijan as a potential energy provider for the EU, also for renewables, and in particular given the current efforts to diversify Europe’s energy supplies away from Russia. It stresses that it is necessary to ensure connectivity between Europe and Asia that avoids crossing Russian territory and that Azerbaijan occupies a strategic place in bolstering Eurasian connectivity.

At the same time, MEPs voice alarm over Baku’s human rights record, which they describe as very negative. They also note the progress made in the negotiations on a new Partnership Agreement between the EU and Azerbaijan, which has been ongoing since 2017, but insist that human rights, rule of law, democracy and good governance must be prioritised in the talks.

Against the backdrop of continuous violations of fundamental human rights in Azerbaijan, MEPs highlight in particular journalists, human rights defenders, civil society representatives and LGBTI persons as targeted by the authorities. They also call on the EU to step up its support for and cooperation with human rights defenders and civil society organisations in the country.

For all the details, the full report will be available here. It was adopted on Thursday by 50 votes in favour, 3 against with 6 abstentions.

“While it is in the EU’s interest to build on the strategic cooperation and economic integration with Azerbaijan, it should also continue to promote human rights and democratic standards in the country. Respecting the freedom of speech and the rights of minorities also contributes to the peaceful coexistence and security of everyone in the South Caucasus”, said rapporteur Željana Zovko (EPP, Croatia) after the vote.

Following the committee vote, the text will now be submitted for approval by the European Parliament as a whole.

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