Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev cancelled a scheduled meeting with Antonio Tajani, the European Parliament's president, during a visit to Brussels on February 6 after the legislative body held an event on human rights violations in Azerbaijan, according to Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).
Azerbaijan's relations with the European Parliament have been tense in recent years. In September 2015, the Aliyev regime responded to a resolution criticising its human rights violations by pulling out of Euronest, a flagship EU initiative to forge closer ties with countries in the bloc's neighbourhood. The Azerbaijani parliament voted on September 30 to resume ties with the European Parliament after a year-long hiatus.
Baku has increasingly come under scrutiny for its persecution of journalists, dissidents and opposition politicians in recent years. Furthermore, corrupt practices have tainted its relations with other European institutions, such as the Council of Europe, an organisation which Azerbaijan chaired temporarily in 2014.
Aliyev was in Brussels to renegotiate his country's framework agreement with the EU, and to replace the existing one that has been in place since 1999. At a joint press conference with Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council, Aliyev said that he was "committed to continuing democratic reforms in order to provide better opportunities to all the citizens of the country". Tusk confirmed that they had discussed human rights during their meeting, and added that the new agreement would "broaden the scope of our relations".
While in Brussels, Aliyev also met with Marcos Sefcovic, the EU's energy commissioner, to discuss the Southern Gas Corridor project that is to deliver Azerbaijani gas to Europe starting in 2019.
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