May 11, 2019 - 12:02 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry has indicated that Armenian fotball player, Arsenal soccer star Henrikh Mkhitarian can play in the Europa League final in Baku later this month, despite long-standing tensions between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia, RFE/RL reports.
When asked about Mkhitarian, ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva said on May 10 that "many major sports events have been hosted in Azerbaijan, and Armenian athletes have taken part in them. Sports and politics are separate."
Mkhitarian’s Arsenal squad will face Chelsea on May 29 in the Azerbaijani capital for the UEFA Europa League championship in an all-English final.
The match at Baku’s 68,700-seat Olympic Stadium will mark the first time a European club competition final will be held in Azerbaijan.
Arsenal has said it is seeking guarantees from the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) that Mkhitarian can travel there for the match. The Armenian star did not travel with Arsenal for a group-stage game in Azerbaijan earlier this season.
UEFA on May 10 said it had received assurances from Azerbaijan's soccer governing body, although it did not mention a guarantee from the Azerbaijan government.
"Assurances were sought on this matter by UEFA and Arsenal FC, with the Azerbaijan Football Association confirming that there would be no problem for the player in question to enter and stay in Azerbaijan and that all necessary security measures would be in place," UEFA said in an e-mail comment.
Tensions have long been high between the former Soviet republics over Nagorno Karabakh.