The European Union’s Special Representative (EUSR) for the South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia, Toivo Klaar, has responded to criticism by Azerbaijani officials following his meeting last week with David Babayan – the self-styled foreign minister of the self-declared Nagorno-Karabakh republic. Klaar, who met Babayan in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, on 14 April, said yesterday that the meeting “could in no way be interpreted as a change of the EU’s position”; that he had “informed the Azerbaijani leadership in advance about [his] intention to have this meeting”; and that for peace and reconciliation, “people need to be able to listen to each other, hear each other, talk to each other, first of all diplomats”.
Asked yesterday (18 April) by Turan news agency about the situation, Klaar noted that he and the European Union’s Ambassador in Azerbaijan, Kęstutis Jankauskas – who was summoned over the issue on Friday by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs – had since been in contact with various high-level Azerbaijani officials on the matter. He said that they had “taken good note of the concerns voiced by the officials and explained [their] point of view to help avoid misunderstandings”.
In his response, Klaar highlighted that in line with the EUSR’s mandate, provided by the EU member states, he had maintained “intensive and frequent close contacts with official government actors” as well as interacting “with relevant stakeholders in the region in line with the given mandate”. Klaar added that during his visits to Baku, he had “also had regular meetings with the Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh, its members, other IDPs and their representatives”.
Klaar reiterated that the meetings took place in Yerevan and “did not imply recognition or agreement with the interlocutor”, and that, “The EU supports Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity”. He stated that his goal with the meeting, “was to have the best possible understanding about the current situation on the ground in line with the mandate given to [him] by EU Member States”. Klaar used his meetings with representatives from the break-away regions of Georgia as an example of how such practices help “in shaping an accurate understanding of the situation on the ground”, without being, “neither disrespectful of the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia, nor [affecting] the EU policy of non-recognition”.
Emphasising the need for communication in peace and reconciliation, the EUSR expressed the EU’s desire “to see the South Caucasus as an area of peace, development and prosperity”, and finished by remarking:
“That process is ongoing. In this context we hear, respect and also seriously take into account Baku’s recently expressed concerns.”