EU launches association talks with Azerbaijan

Agence France Presse
July 16, 2010 Friday 1:46 PM GMT

EU launches association talks with Azerbaijan

BAKU, July 16 2010

The European Union on Friday launched talks with Azerbaijan on an
association agreement that would boost ties between the bloc and the
energy-rich ex-Soviet republic.

“The preparation and signing of an association agreement is another
important step in relations between the EU and Azerbaijan. It promotes
integration of our country into Europe,” Azerbaijan’s deputy foreign
minister Mahmud Mamedguliyev told a news conference in Baku.

The head of the EU’s negotiating team, John Kjaer, said that the
eventual association agreement would promote democracy and economic
prosperity in the bloc’s Eastern neighbourhood.

“Europe is strategically interested in stability and democratic
development of its eastern neighbours,” Kjaer said.

Association agreements are treaties between the bloc and non-EU
countries that create a framework for cooperation on political and
economic issues. Negotiations on agreements usually take from one to
four years.

Azerbaijan has not sought as close links with the EU as neighbouring
Georgia, which launched similar talks with the bloc on Thursday, but
is an important partner for Europe in terms of energy cooperation.

Azerbaijan is a key partner in Western-backed projects to deliver oil
and gas from the Caspian Sea through Turkey to Europe, bypassing
Russia. It is also considered a crucial potential supplier for the
EU’s flagship Nabucco gas pipeline project.

Association agreement negotiations are also taking place with Ukraine
and Moldova and are due to be launched on Monday with another South
Caucasus republic, Armenia.

Six ex-Soviet states — Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia,
Moldova, and Ukraine — are also part of EU’s Eastern Partnership
initiative designed to foster democracy, security and economic reforms
in Europe’s eastern neighbourhood and deepen political and economic
ties.

From: A. Papazian

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