BAKU, Azerbaijan, September 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ --
During a meeting with the former President of the European Commission, Jacques Santer, MEPs and other European premiers and ministers on the side-lines of an international conference in Baku, President Ilham Aliyev Thursday confirmed Azerbaijan's commitment to forging stronger ties with the European Union.
"Our main focus should be spent on how to build bridges, to increase mutual trust," said Aliyev on the opening day of the "Building Bridges" conference in Baku.
The conference, hosted by the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan (ACSDA) and the Institute for European Affairs (INEA), convened more than 200 delegates on the shores of the Caspian Sea to discuss political, economic and cultural links between Azerbaijan and the EU.
"Azerbaijan is committed to building stronger bridges with the European Union and is therefore engaged in close political dialogue, harmonises its legal system and cooperates in economic, public and cultural spheres with Europe," said Elkhan Suleymanov, the head of the Azerbaijani delegation to the EURONEST Parliamentary Assembly, who inaugurated the conference.
He also noted that Azerbaijan has become a strategic partner for Europe's energy security.
Suleymanov further stressed that it was critical to find a lasting solution over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a region, which has been occupied by Armenia and makes up nearly 20% of Azerbaijani territory. He called for the international community to adopt a more objective and unbiased approach towards "one of the few democracies with a predominantly Muslim population integrating into the EU."
Former Turkish Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz urged his European colleagues to take concrete action regarding the lingering Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. "The role of France within the Minsk Group is limited and doesn't reflect the EU's stance," he said. "The Union is an international actor and should act accordingly to solve frozen conflicts."
Meanwhile, former European Commissioner, Jacques Santer from Luxembourg, praised Azerbaijan, highlighting the fact that the Caspian state already meets all conditions required for a modern country integrating into the European space: good infrastructure, open economy and innovation ability.
According to the Ambassador of the Netherlands, Arjen Uijterlinde, the EU sees Azerbaijan as a reliable partner and is interested in developing its relations in all areas, including trade, the economy and in the field of communication between people.
"Amsterdam supports accession of Azerbaijan to the WTO and the negotiations between Azerbaijan and the EU on visa facilitation," he said.
Ivo Vajgl, Member of the European Parliament from Slovenia stated that Brussels' position towards Azerbaijan as "a strategic partner of the European Union" is clear: "We want to re-establish the sovereignty of Azerbaijan in its entire territory and the right of the refugees to return to their native land."
SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor