TALKING POINTS

Azerbaijan 2012 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

Catherine Ashton, European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, on building a relationship between the EU and Azerbaijan.

Catherine Ashton
BIOGRAPHY
Catherine Ashton was born in 1956, and became the European Union’s High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy in 2008. In 1999, she gained a Life Peerage, becoming Baroness Ashton of Upholland. She then took on a ministerial position in the Labour government in the Department for Education and Skills in 2001. She subsequently took up positions in the Department for Constitutional Affairs and Ministry of Justice. In May 2006 she also became a Privy Councilor, and in 2007 she was appointed Leader of the House of Lords and Lord President of the Queen’s Privy Council. In 2008 she succeeded Peter Mandelson as Commissioner for Trade in the European Commission, and in 2009 she became the first person to take on the newly enlarged High Representative role for the EU under the Treaty of Lisbon.

I visited Azerbaijan in late 2011, and I was very keen to go there to develop further bilateral relationships between the EU and Azerbaijan and highlight the importance of making sure that our relationships are tailor-made to suit the needs of both.

Azerbaijan is an important partner of the EU in terms of energy, and I know that it is working closely with my colleague, Commissioner Günther Oettinger, to advance on this issue. Azerbaijan is also an increasingly important player in the Caucasus region and it has been proved by its election as a non-permanent member of the Security Council at the UN.

The Eastern Partnership is an important way in which we demonstrate the closeness of our relationship, building on the common values and aspirations that we hold for all our people. For all my life the issues of human rights has been central to the way I approach the relationships that we have in the EU. With all the countries in the Eastern Partnership, it's part of the core values that we hold.

Azerbaijan knows well the position the EU and I myself hold in terms of these issues and I hope my visit to Azerbaijan was an opportunity to demonstrate the value that we place on this relationship, considering further in our meetings what more we can do to develop and deepen that relationship in the future.

We also touched upon the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The EU has a different role to the Minsk Group, which is responsible for trying to resolve this issue. I appointed a special representative to offer our support in some of the ways that the EU can support the process; an example being confidence-building measures.

Briefly, we also discussed some foreign policy issues, among them Iran. As you know, on behalf of the E3+3 or the P5+1, I'm responsible for leading the negotiations with Iran, and we take a very clear double-track approach. We believe in trying to get the Iranians to negotiate and to respect their commitments on nuclear proliferation. And we're concerned about the latest report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While we wish to see Iran honor its commitments and come to negotiate, we recognize we need to keep up the pressure.