Lithuania Puts Up Bridges with South Caucasus

By Thomas Jarvi

In March the Head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Lithuania Linas Linkevičius paid a visit to the states of South Caucasus – Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Against the background of the development of bilateral relations of Lithuania with these states, this visit looks quite logical. 


Georgia held the elections and the change of power has happened in the essence. During the last visit of the Head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Georgia Maia Panjikidze declared about the loyalty of Georgia to the way of European and Euro-Atlantic integration, but with a remark, that by this Georgia intends to hold conversation also with Russia. This nuance, according to the observations of the number of Lithuanian experts, wasn’t of pleasure for Lithuanian politicians, which they discussed in the back rooms.


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Talking about Azerbaijan, in Lithuania everybody knows about the note of protest, with which this Caucasian country – by the way, the biggest economic compound of the region of South Caucasus, was not satisfied regarding the initiative of the number of Lithuanian MPs to create a group of friends with Nagorny Karabakh.


Let’s remind, that in the Parliament of Lithuania it was officially announced the establishment of the Group of Interparliamentary Relations with the non-recognized Republic of Nagorny Karabakh.


Not all political forces approved this initiative. The ex-Minister of Foreign Affairs, a conservator Audronius Ažubalis  was anxious that the establishment of such group damages official foreign policy of Lithuania. In his turn, the Ambassador of Azerbaijan handed to the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Lithuania a note (in relation to the establishment of this group), which said that this “could negatively affect bilateral relations ".


The initiative of individual members of the Sejm to establish the group of friends of non-recognized by the world community Republic of Nagorny Karabakh doesn’t reflect the official line of Lithuania, declared the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Sejm of Lithuania Benediktas Juodka after the meeting with the Ambassador of Azerbaijan in Vilnius.


After a while the Ambassador to Baku was called the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Baku to give the explanations on this issue. According to Lithuanian Ambassador, he told about the wishes on this matter during the conversation.


It is not a secret that Azerbaijani and Armenian parties in Lithuania, in the Parliament in particular, according to some information, are trying to “work” on Karabakh issue. In particular, Armenia and Azerbaijan are trying to influence the public opinion with the help of the representatives of the local Armenian diaspora. But financial options of the parties are not at all similar. By this, it’s worth to remember that Lithuania would like to cooperate with Azerbaijan in the sphere of economy, first of all, in energy sector. In its turn, for Azerbaijan the resolution of Nagorny Karabakh issue is the priority number one. By this each party has its own opinion on this solution.


As for Armenia, than with this country Lithuania has stable neutral relations. There are consultations held on the issue of European integration, but the economic compound, considering not the most excellent state of Armenian economy and cooperation of Armenia in the number of strategic spheres with Russia, can hardly be called a defining, although the vector of “the given situation clarification” is topical. And not only for Lithuania, but for the allies in the North-Atlantic Alliance.


One can’t also forget that each of mentioned Caucasian states considers Lithuania to be its mediator or advocate in the EU. The Ambassadors of these countries to Lithuania have repeatedly stated that, as well as the number of officials. Except for that, in November the third Summit of the EU initiative Eastern Partnership should be held in Vilnius.


The main focus of the future Chairmanship of Lithuania in the EU Council is the signing by Ukraine of the Treaty on Association with the EU in course of the Summit in Vilnius. Each of the member-states of this initiative intends to achieve its goals. In particular Georgia and Armenia lay big hopes on this Summit. Azerbaijan takes a more reserved line on this matter.


Considering the intensity of political relations of Lithuania with the states of South Caucasus, one can’t forget about such player as NATO’s Turkey. And the presence of Russia in Azerbaijan and Georgia is felt less, than in Armenia.


Visiting Georgia, the Head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Lithuania noted, that the European Union expects that the President and Vice Prime-Minister of Georgia shall do the utmost, for the process of co-existence to be successful and presented an initiative of joint declaration of the President and Prime Minister of Georgia towards the European Union and NATO regarding foreign political course of the country. He also underlined, that Lithuania shall support Georgia by any government. In addition he expressed a hope that during Vilnius Summit of the Eastern Partnership Georgia shall have positive results on the line of European integration.


“I think, that despite hard domestic political debates, the approach in relation to European and Euro-Atlantic integration remains the same, and this is a very important sign”, - assured the Head of Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry his Georgian colleagues.


As for Azerbaijan, then the situation here is a bit different. This country doesn’t really strive to show its Euro-integration intentions, however doesn’t hide its interest towards the Eastern Partnership project. Baku at all levels declares, that Lithuania can provide assistance to Azerbaijan within establishing of even more close cooperation with West European countries.


The objective of his visit to Azerbaijan the Head of Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Ministry L. Linkevičius specified, as: “The objective of this visit is to discuss the relation of Lithuania with Azerbaijan, relations of the country with the EU, present plans and priorities of the Chairmanship in the European Union Council in the second half of this year. During the meetings in Baku, I wanted to underline the support of Lithuania of the intentions of Azerbaijan to deepen the dialogue with the European Union”.


“I have assured our partners, that during the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vilnius we would be happy to observe the accomplishment of concrete objectives – progress in the talks on the Association Treaty with the European Union, and even maybe a treaty on visa relaxation and readmission”, - assured L. Linkevičius.


Lithuania invited Azerbaijan to develop cooperation with the center of advanced experience of NATO in the sphere of energy security, and being a  NATO member, it supports and encourages the cooperation between Azerbaijan and NATO in the issues of democratic and institutional reforms, as well as in the sphere of compatibility of forces of the both countries. Vilnius is also interested in that the initiative of the “Eastern Partnership” of the EU to include cooperation in the sphere of security policy and defense.


L. Linkevičius emphasized the importance of cooperation in a transport sphere, as well as expressed certainty that Lithuania and Azerbaijan have many spheres for cooperation not only with the frameworks of the “Eastern Partnership”.


“We realize, that there should be an individual approach towards each country of the “European Partnership”, that is why I think that Azerbaijan itself also can suggest, which spheres are of its greatest interest”, - declared the Head of the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Lithuania.