The foreign ministers from three European countries who visited Armenia and Azerbaijan last week said that the European Union must play a role in ramping up confidence and trust between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The foreign ministers of Austria, Lithuania and Romania were dispatched to the South Caucasus on a directive from Josep Borrell, EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs.
At a press conference Saturday at the EU Delegation in the Georgian capital of Tbilisi, Austria’s foreign minister Alexander Shallenberg stressed the dire need to build trust between Baku and Yerevan.
He said that intensive talks took place with Armenia’s acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev at the end of last week.
“Our goal was to understand the means by which trust can be built. This visit reaffirmed what we already knew: trust is the most important resource the region needs and lacks. Our goal is to sow the seeds of that trust. We know that the wounds caused by the Nagorno-Karabakh war are still open, but we need a healing process. This visit showed that the parties realize that there is a real need for this process, they need partners to start this process. The European Union is ready to assist in any way possible way,” Schallenberg said.
He said that the European foreign minister greatly appreciate Georgia’s role in this issue with the mediation of which the release of Armenian POWs by Azerbaijan and the handing over of maps of mined areas by Armenia became possible.
“I think this trilateral cooperation is beneficial for all parties,” said the Austrian Foreign Minister, noting that the EU fully supports such processes.
The European Union is a geopolitical force that can have a potential mission in the South Caucasus to ensure stability, democracy, and reforms that will help countries pursue European values in their aspirations, Lithuania’s Foreign Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis said during the press conference.
According to him, the region needs stability and predictability. “The visit was a good opportunity to hear the views of the parties on how the European Union can be more actively involved. When we talk about Armenia and Azerbaijan, we must help build trust,” Landsbergis said.
He expressed hope that the recent return of Armenian captives, and the handling of maps of minefields to Azerbaijan through mediation from Georgia and the EU will become a stepping stone for continued talks.
“It is time to talk about the role of the European Union in terms of establishing connections throughout the region, be it through roads or other infrastructure, such as gas and electricity. The European Union knows how to do it,” said Landsbergis.
The South Caucasus has a strategic importance for the EU, Romania’s Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu said at the Saturday press briefing in Georgia.
”We conveyed the EU’s commitment to prioritize the security, stability and welfare of all three South Caucasus countries, as well as EU’s determination to get involved in the settlement process of prolonged conflicts in this region more actively, since it has a strategic importance for the EU,” explained Aurescu.
Referring to the prolonged conflicts in the region, Aurescu said that they had a negative impact on the development of the Eastern Partnership countries.
He urged their partners in the South Caucasus to derive all possible from the tools provided by the EU Eastern Partnership to strengthen regional cooperation for the benefit of peace and prosperity.
”All three countries supported the creation of regional format comprised of the tree countries”, the Minister said.
He underscored that they had in-depth discussions in Armenia and Azerbaijan over the current situation and upcoming activities, considering the military operations of the previous year.
”We urged them to act in a constructive manner, since the confidence-building measures, including the release of all the POWs and providing all the minefield maps, remain a priority,” Aurescu said, adding that the EU is ready to assist in any issue that can lead to a negotiated, stable and lasting solution of issues.
”I emphasized the importance of reconciliation between the two societies. This process may be difficult and time-consuming, but there is no alternative,” said Romania’s foreign minister.