Vaqif Sadiqov, the head of Azerbaijan’s mission to the European Union, told Politico that the presence of the EU monitors in Armenia near the border with Azerbaijan is worrying Baku.
“This is a bilateral issue between Armenia and the EU, but it is happening a few hundred meters from our own border posts and in a heavily militarized environment where we have Russian border guards, Armenian border guards, Russian regular units, Armenian regular units and, closer to the Iranian border, Iran’s military. Now we also have EU peacekeepers. So we [i.e., Azerbaijan] have legitimate security questions,” Sadiqov said in a report published by Politico.
Sadiqov warned that the EU mission could be seen as an effort by Brussels to bolster its presence in the South Caucasus.
Speaking to Politico on condition of anonymity, a senior official in the EU’s diplomatic service bemoaned the fact that the aforesaid monitoring mission seems to have soured relations.
“We were hoping for a different scenario with Baku. We are sharing all relevant information on patrols and so on with Azerbaijan because we don’t want any issues,” the European official said.
“Azerbaijan and Russia are basically saying the same thing — that the EU mission is a military-intelligence operation under the cover of monitoring,” the EU official added. “They’ve been trying to discredit the mission, which is exclusively civilian and unarmed, from the beginning and there’s not much we can do about it.”
Politico reported that Baku is also reacting with fury after the European Parliament last month backed a report that “condemns the latest large-scale military aggression by Azerbaijan in September,” accuses the country of undermining the peace process, and “underlines the EU’s readiness to be more actively involved in settling the region’s protracted conflicts.”
The same Politico article also suggested that the EU mission in Armenia may cast a shadow over a natural gas deal between Azerbaijan and the EU, signed last year shortly after the Russia-Ukraine conflict.