Donald Tusk met with Azerbaijani president Ilham Alive today
Eurocrats launched talks on a new trade and investment agreement with the repressive country as its autocratic president Ilham Aliyev visited Brussels for talks with officials.
The dictatorial leader, who has been accused of overseeing human rights violations and a crackdown on free speech, called for a new deal to be sealed as swiftly as possible.
That remark prompted EU Council president Donald Tusk to nervously joke that “we don’t have much time here” – a veiled reference to the multiple threats facing the future of the bloc.
Europe’s reliance on Russia for its energy supply has become an increasingly pressing issue given the ongoing stand-off with Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine.
Jean-Claude Juncker was not looking forward to his talks with the leader
Azerbaijan has vast reserves of oil and gas
Brussels is keen to secure the bloc’s future by sourcing fossil fuels from elsewhere and Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic, has vast reserves of natural gas.
But the country has an appalling human rights record under Aliyev, a billionaire whose regime has jailed political opponents and journalists for the slightest criticism.
Ahead of a meeting with the Azerbaijani chief EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker undiplomatically joked that his day was about to go significantly downhill.
But Mr Tusk was more restrained, describing the South Caucasus country as a “friend” of the European Union and describing his meeting with Aliyev as “fruitful”.
He said: “Azerbaijan is an important partner for the EU. We want to build on our reliable and strategic partnership in the energy field. Azerbaijan is important for Europe’s energy security and diversification of supplies.
“I am very happy to announce that tomorrow the negotiations on a new EU-Azerbaijan agreement will be launched.
“This new agreement will broaden the scope of our relations taking into account a new global political and economic interest we share and challenges we want to face together.”
Russia launches global war games
Mon, August 3, 2015
RUSSIA has kicked off the first annual International Army Games as part of a continued campaign showing off their military might.
The Army Games started on Saturday for a two-week contest between 17 countries in an Olympic-style competition.
More than 2,000 foreign troops are expected to take part in the Games, including those from China, India, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Pakistan, Serbia and Venezuela.
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Artists pay tribute to the warriors of the past in the Games' opening ceremony
However, in a warning shot to the grinning president standing next to him, he added: “During our talks I stressed the importance we attach to human rights and fundamental freedoms including the freedom of expression.
“The EU believes that an open society is the best guarantee for long-term stability and prosperity we look forward to continuing to work as partners on this issue.”
Addressing reporters after the meeting, Aliyev urged EU officials to strike a deal as soon as possible, describing cooperation between the two as “very fruitful, very sincere and with big potential”.
But he only made a passing reference to criticism of his human rights record, adding: “We are committed to a continuation of democratic reforms in Azerbaijan in order to provide better opportunities for all the citizens of our country.”