The Norwegian Foreign Ministry recently announced it was going to shift its diplomatic representation in the South Caucasus from Azerbaijan to Georgia. The current embassy in Baku, established twenty years ago, will be closed and over the course of 2019, a new embassy will be set up in Tbilisi. In the future, Norwegian-Azerbaijan relations will fall within the mandate of the embassy in Ankara, and Norwegian representation in Azerbaijan will be limited to a honorary consulate.
‘Georgia is one of our priority partner countries in the Eurasia region. For many years, it has been following a course of reform, which has brought it closer to European and Euro-Atlantic cooperation structures. It is on the basis of an overall assessment of Norwegian interests and our ties with the countries in the Southern Caucasus that Norway has decided to open an embassy in Georgia’, Foreign Minister Eriksen Søreide said.
The Minister also noted that a permanent representation in Tbilisi would make it easier to follow developments in the region as a whole.
The spokesperson of the Azerbaijani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Leyla Abdllayeva, called the decision ‘regrettable’ but emphasized the ‘warm, comprehensive’ nature of Norway-Azerbaijan relations, which started in the beginning of the 1990s when Norwegian energy giant Equinor [formerly Statoil], one of Azerbaijan's largest foreign investors, started its operations.
The unexpected decision sparked wide debate about its underlying motives, with possible explanations ranging from the Azerbaijani government's lack of commitment to democratic values to little opportunity for embassies to support Azerbaijani civil society as well as Norway’s decreased economic interest in the country.