BAKU -- An Azerbaijani official has defended the country's visa regime after Eurovision officials urged Baku to ease entry requirements into Azerbaijan, RFE/RL's Azerbaijani Service reports.
Samad Seyidov, the head of Azerbaijan's delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), said on September 3 that "simplifying the visa regime ahead of [the] Eurovision [contest in 2012] is not under discussion."
He added that Azerbaijan is an "open country" whose visa regulations are based on "world standards and procedures."
The Eurovision Song Contest management asked Azerbaijani authorities last week to simplify the country's visa regulations in the run-up to next year's contest in Baku.
But Seyidov said "when the Eurovision was held in Germany, [it] did not change its visa regime...every country is obliged to demonstrate more attention to its guests. Azerbaijan has historical traditions of hospitability, therefore I think no problem will arise regarding this issue."
Eurovision Executive Supervisor Jon Ola Sand told RFE/RL on September 1 that "it's paramount for us that during Eurovision weeks, people be able to come to Azerbaijan: the contestants, the delegations, and journalists be able to come into [the country] and work freely. It is very important for us. We have asked the [Azerbaijani] government to simplify the visa rules. It should be easy to come and work here."
In October, Azerbaijani authorities toughened visa regulations for foreigners. Until then, it was possible to obtain a visa upon arrival at Baku's international airport.
The 57th Eurovision Song Contest will take place in Baku in May because Azerbaijan's duo of Ell & Nikki won this year's contest in Duesseldorf, Germany, in the spring.
Read more in Azeri here