Baku, Azerbaijan (AP) – Azerbaijan’s independence-minded President Ilham Aliyev has vowed to continue building bridges with neighbouring Armenia, as the United States and European Union signalled renewed pressure on Azerbaijan.
Aliyev met with Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian in Baku on Wednesday, and pledged to continue “constructing new links and friendships with Azerbaijan” even as he and his government warned the United Nations Security Council not to ignore Azerbaijan’s actions.
Alipom, a former Soviet republic, joined the Soviet Union in 1991 and the two countries have had diplomatic relations since then.
Aliyaev’s decision to seek a deal with the European Union to allow it to sell its uranium assets has caused deep divisions between the two neighbours.
Aliyav’s government is seeking the $4.3 billion in revenue it is owed by the European uranium supplier, Uranium One, and its Western partners.
The deal has become a symbol of the deepening geopolitical rift between the West and the Middle East.
Aliyaev, who was born in Azerbaijan and has deep ties to Azerbaijan, is accused of using the uranium for political purposes.
The Armenian foreign ministry issued a statement saying that the European Commission has warned Azerbaijan not to go ahead with the uranium sale.
It said the Armenian side will consider its options.EU sanctions against Azerbaijan are to remain in place until the EU and Azerbaijan reach a “mutual understanding” on the uranium deal, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Wednesday.EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Merkel in Berlin also told Aliyeva that the EU has “great concerns” over the proposed uranium sale, which has led to an increase in pressure on Russia.
She said EU diplomats were in contact with Azerbaijani officials and that “we are ready to assist in any way possible”.
“I want to emphasize that we have never taken any step that we consider illegal,” Merkel said, adding that Azerbaijan’s foreign minister has promised to investigate any alleged violations of EU rules.
The European Union’s foreign affairs chief Federico Mogherin in Brussels on Wednesday said there were “no grounds for doubt” that the proposed Uranium ONE deal would violate EU rules, which forbid “the export or the possession of radioactive substances”.
He said the EU had “grave concerns” about the uranium issue.
Mogherin said he had spoken to the US president, Joe Biden, who had called the uranium agreement “unacceptable” and urged the US to “stand firm”.
“We’re not going to stand by,” Mogherina said.
Biden, who is scheduled to visit Russia on Friday, said he would ask Putin for an explanation on the matter, according to a statement.
The Kremlin said Biden’s visit to Russia on Thursday was “a political show” and a sign of how “politically motivated” Biden’s US visit was.
“This show is aimed at undermining the Russian-American relationship, the European-Russian strategic partnership and the Russian government’s foreign and security policy,” Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters.
“Biden has no right to do anything like this,” Peskov added.
Azerbaijan’s government has accused Western nations of interfering in its affairs and has threatened sanctions against Washington and Brussels.