Azerbaijan wins regional backing to host COP29 climate summit

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Azerbaijan looks set to host next year's COP29 climate change summit after winning backing from other Eastern European nations on Saturday.

Due to host next year's summit, nations from the Eastern European region backed Baku's bid during the COP28 summit in Dubai.

Two sources familiar with the discussions told Reuters countries in the regional group formally backed Azerbaijan's bid in a meeting on Saturday afternoon.

"We're very grateful to all countries, particularly the Eastern European group and the [COP28 summit] host, the United Arab Emirates, for their support," the country's ecology minister Mukhtar Babayev told the COP28 summit.

The decision on a host had been held up after Russia said it would veto any European Union country's bid to be the host. The EU has imposed sanctions on Moscow over its invasion of Ukraine. Azerbaijan is not an EU member.

Baku's bid still needs formal approval from the nearly 200 countries at the COP28 talks, but delegates said on Saturday they expect that vote to be a formality.

UN climate summit hosts are usually announced years in advance, and the deadlock over the COP29 host has left Baku with scarce time to prepare for the massive gathering.

Azerbaijan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Aykhan Hajizada told Reuters on Friday Baku was well equipped to hold it, with enough venues and amenities.

This year's UN climate summit in the UAE was the biggest yet, with more than 110,000 delegates registered.

Holding the presidency of a UN climate summit gives a country massive influence on its agenda and outcomes.

Baku's relations with some Western countries have deteriorated since September, when Baku retook complete control of the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, prompting an almost total exodus of the territory's ethnic Armenian population.

Azerbaijan is an oil and gas producer and a member of OPEC+.

Hajizada told Reuters he understood those concerns and noted Azerbaijan's plans to diversify its energy sources to include more wind and solar power.

Azerbaijan and Armenia announced a deal on Thursday allowing Baku to bid for COP29 without the threat of an Armenian veto.

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