Azerbaijan says can’t join Russia-led trade bloc because of Armenian “occupation”

Azerbaijan cannot join the Russia-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) as long as Armenia continues occupation of Azeri territory, Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov claimed in an interview with Russia 24 TV channel aired on Monday.

Mammadyarov, who paid an official visit to Moscow where he also met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, said that Azerbaijan might consider joining the EEU if Armenia “pulls its troops out of Azeri territory.”

“The customs union plays an important role in the EEU. But we can’t co-exist within this union with, say, Armenia. But if Armenia withdraws its troops, if the borders are opened, if there is a normalization of the situation, if there is an economic component between Armenia and Azerbaijan, who knows what will happen tomorrow. As they say, never say never,” said Mammadyarov.

Armenia, which is the key military and political ally of Russia in the region, has repeatedly denied Azerbaijani claims about “Armenian occupation” of Nagorno-Karabakh. Advocating a peaceful solution to the conflict, official Yerevan has also spoken in favor of the right of the ethnic Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh to self-determination as one of the key components of possible settlement. In the course of the internationally mediated negotiations that have lasted for more than two decades since the active military phase of the conflict in the early 1990s, Azerbaijan has insisted on its “territorial integrity”, threatening to win back the territories military if no progress on that account was achieved diplomatically.

Speaking about the results of his talks in Moscow, Azerbaijani FM Mammadyarov said that one of the key issues on the agenda of his meeting with Lavrov was “the very clear intention of Russia “to get the settlement of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh moving.”

The Azerbaijani minister also described the current level of relations between Baku and Moscow as “strategic partnership”.