BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry indicated Friday that Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan can play in the Europa League final in Baku despite tension between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia.
Asked about Mkhitaryan, ministry spokeswoman Leyla Abdullayeva told The Associated Press that “many major sports events have been hosted in Azerbaijan, and Armenian athletes have taken part in them. Sports and politics are separate.”
Nagorno-Karabakh is a region of Azerbaijan which has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. Some neighboring districts are also under the control of those ethnic Armenian forces. International efforts to settle the conflict have stalled.
Mkhitaryan did not travel with the Arsenal squad for a group-stage game in Azerbaijan earlier this season.
Arsenal has said it is seeking guarantees from UEFA that Mkhitaryan can travel for the May 29 final against Chelsea.
UEFA said Friday that it had received assurances from Azerbaijan’s soccer governing body, but didn’t mention a government commitment.