Members of the European Parliament approved the EU-Azerbaijan Comprehensive Agreement (passed by 564 votes to 69, with 47 abstentions), but called on the European Union to ensure that the future agreement is ambitious and delivers tangible and concrete benefits for SMEs and citizens on both sides.

The MEPs also reminded Azerbaijan that no comprehensive agreement will be ratified with a country that does not respect fundamental EU values and rights. As such, they called on the country’s authorities to release political prisoners and prisoners of conscience.

They also called on the EU to help Azerbaijan develop a strong framework to protect human rights and fundamental freedoms and ensure that it respects the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

MEPs said that if negotiations advance speedily and all key conditions are met the new agreement could be signed before the next EU-Eastern Partnership summit in 2019.

“The EU is Azerbaijan’s top trading partner and Azerbaijan is a strategic energy partner for the EU – it is high time to update the framework for our relations with a comprehensive agreement,” said Parliament’s rapporteur Norica Nicolai (ALDE, RO). “Today’s vote shows that the European Parliament will remain very attentive to developments in Azerbaijan and I hope we can work together to ensure that the necessary progress in terms of democratic standards can be achieved before the conclusion of negotiations.”