30 Dec 2019 14:26

Azerbaijan relies on national interests in developing cooperation with EU - foreign minister

BAKU. Dec 30 (Interfax) - Azerbaijan relies on its national interests and does not view cooperation with the European Union and the Eurasian Economic Union as a dilemma, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said in an interview with the Azerbaijani media on Monday.

"Azerbaijan does not think in 'either-or' categories. All of our foreign political decisions are dictated by national development interests above all. Any attempts of third parties to suggest a particular choice will fail, which is proven by the entire course of recent history, including the events of the past decade. Foreign forces, which used to make such attempts, have reckoned with these realities," Mammadyarov said when asked whether post-Soviet countries had to choose between the EU and the EAEU.

The new strategic partnership agreement with the European Union must meet the national interests of Azerbaijan, and the talks on this agreement will continue with the newly elected European Commission, he said.

"The EU-Azerbaijan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement took effect in 1999. However, Azerbaijan has been through many changes over the past 20 years and has become a major geopolitical actor of the region and the world. Our country has initiated a series of transport, energy, cultural, and political projects on the global and regional levels," Mammadyarov said in his comments on the progress of talks with the EU.

Nowadays, Azerbaijan is a major investor, which ranks first amongst participatory states of the EU's Eastern Partnership initiative in these terms, he said.

"In the midst of the economic crisis in Europe, we helped create 5,000 jobs in Greece alone and invested 15 billion euros in the European economy via the Southern Gas Corridor project. Azerbaijani gas supply to Europe via the TAP pipeline, which plays an important role in the EU's energy security, will begin in the first half of 2020. In short, a brand new situation has emerged in Azerbaijan-EU relations," Mammadyarov said.

This is why Azerbaijan has chosen a special way based on the principles of equality and mutual respect to develop and expand its relations with the European Union and has proposed that a strategic partnership agreement be negotiated.

The broadening political and economic relations between the sides, strategic partnership in the energy sector, and the signing of strategic documents with nine EU countries require the elaboration of a new comprehensive agreement, Mammadyarov said.

Talks with the EU on a new document began in February 2017 on the basis of the document presented by the Azerbaijani side, he said.

"Plenty of rounds regarding the fairly vast draft have been held within less than three years, and most of this document has been coordinated. The sides have never set any deadlines for their negotiations and the initialing and signing of the document. We prioritize quality of our talks instead of quantity and time limits," Mammadyarov said.

Azerbaijan will keep working with the newly elected European Commission, he said. "Azerbaijan favors a quality agreement, which absolutely must meet the national interests of our country," Mammadyarov said.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on December 23 that the draft of the Azerbaijani-EU strategic partnership agreement was 90% ready.