EU President Herman van Rompuy has called on the government of Azerbaijan to improve civil and political rights in that oil-rich former Soviet republic.
Van Rompuy said on July 5 that the European Union is interested in "a stable, progressive, and tolerant Azerbaijan."
He welcomed the release last week of nine opposition supporters jailed for participating in a rally in 2011, saying more such steps were needed.
He made the comments following talks with President Ilham Aliyev in Baku.
Van Rompuy also called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to avoid further violence in their long-running dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan.
Based on reporting by AFP and ITAR-TASS