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The Cooperation Council between the European Union (EU) and the Republic of Azerbaijan held its thirteenth meeting on Monday 17 December 2012.
The EU was represented by Dr Erato Kozakou-Marcoullis, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Cyprus, acting as Chair of the Cooperation Council on behalf of the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton, and by Štefan Füle, Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy. The Azerbaijani delegation was led by Mr Elmar Mammadyarov, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Ahead of the Cooperation Council, the Cyprus Minister for Foreign Affairs Kozakou-Marcoullis stated: “Azerbaijan and the EU have shown their strong commitment in intensifying and deepening their cooperation.”
This meeting provided the opportunity for frank and open discussion. It took place at the end of a very intensive year for bilateral relations: during 2012, visits were made to Baku by the President of the European Council Van Rompuy, Commission Vice-President Kroes and Commissioners Oettinger and Füle.
The Cooperation Council reviewed progress on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The EU reaffirmed that the status quo is unacceptable and that the solution of this conflict remains a top priority. Both sides reiterated their support to efforts deployed by the OSCE Minsk Group. The Cooperation Council reviewed progress on the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The EU confirmed its complementary role in support of confidence building measures. The EU also expressed concern on incidents at the frontlines. The EU urged the sides to maintain stability on the ground and to refrain from aggressive, belligerent statements and actions that would increase tension.
The Cooperation Council underlined the need to remain focussed on and speed up implementation of the European Neighbourhood Policy Action Plan, including WTO accession. The Cooperation Council provided a good opportunity to take stock of latest developments in the South Caucasus, as well as to review recent political and economic reforms in Azerbaijan.
In view of the deepening bilateral relations between the EU and Azerbaijan in the framework of the Eastern Partnership, the EU encouraged Azerbaijan to step up reforms in these fields in particular with regards to the preparation and conduct of presidential elections scheduled in October 2013, which should take place in a fair and transparent way in line with international standards.
The EU reiterated that respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Azerbaijan is an essential component in the bilateral relationship and in the framework of the Eastern Partnership. The EU reaffirmed its readiness to continue its support for the further development of democratic institutions in Azerbaijan.
The two sides expressed satisfaction with the on-going negotiations on the Association Agreement and underlined the need to accelerate their pace. The EU welcomed the start of negotiations for the signature of visa facilitation and readmission agreements.
The Cooperation Council discussed EU-Azerbaijan cooperation in the energy sector and welcomed the ratification by the Azerbaijani Parliament of the bilateral agreements with Turkey on the construction and operation of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), as part of the Southern Energy Corridor. The EU and Azerbaijan confirmed their commitment to the negotiations with Turkmenistan on the construction of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline. Both sides confirmed the importance of the Southern Corridor and its contribution in reaching the common objective of energy security and the security of energy transportation from the Caspian Sea to the EU.