EU head of diplomacy, Federica Mogherini, said that she was hopeful that the EU and Azerbaijan would soon finalize a new trade agreement and political deal, adding Arabic “inshallah” (God willing). The relations between the two sides are currently governed by the EU-Azerbaijan Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1999 but two years ago Brussels and Baku initiated talks to revamp the regulatory framework. Despite progress, a few outstanding issues remain but Ms. Mogherini said that both partners were at “the final, crucial phase” of talks on the “new, ambitious bilateral agreement”.
Azerbaijan is looking for a deep connection with the EU, unlike countries like Ukraine, Moldova or Georgia, all of which signed association agreements. The current talks are said to be held up by technicalities but Baku was not more specific. Ms. Mogherini said that irrespective of which chapters were pending, the good will was key. The issue regarding Nagorno-Karabakh is likely one of the problematic ones, although there have been positive signs especially regarding Brussels’ role in the process. Last week, Vienna was the venue of the first high-level meeting of leaders of Azerbaijan and Armenia over the conflict. Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Mammadyarov regretted the statement of Armenia’s Defense minister just after the Vienna meeting. “One thing is for sure: military must go back to their barracks”, he said, adding that “military can create a lot of trouble, not solutions.”
Regarding the Southern Gas Corridor, the project is in development and on track to reach Italy in 2020. The aim is to bring Azerbaijan’s gas to the southern part of Italy including a bifurcation site in Greece. “Now what we need to do is to make some good assessment that this strategic approach will be moved for the next decade.” He also added that “supplying Italy is not the end of SGC. [The project] has the ability to be [reach] other parts. The Balkan states are very much interested”.