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EU Official Issues Caution Over Ties With Azerbaijan

5 October 2005 -- The European Union's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, warned today that Azerbaijan risks delaying its participation in the EU's European Neighborhood Program by pursuing ties with Northern Cyprus.

"I told the Azeris clearly: 'If they do not change their attitude, if they do not find a solution, we will start moving ahead with Armenia and Georgia,'" Ferrero-Waldner said. "We're hoping now that the Azeris will find a solution, but this is going to be a matter of some weeks after I must give the go-ahead to the others [Armenia and Georgia] because I cannot let them wait."

The EU only recognizes the Greek-community government of the divided island, which joined the EU in 2004.

Cyprus is now blocking Azerbaijan's progress in the European neighborhood program -- also known as the wider Europe initiative -- over Baku's links to the Turkish part of Cyprus, having specifically complained about commercial flight activity.

Ferrero-Waldner, who was speaking before the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee in Brussels, said she had warned Azerbaijan of the risk.