UEFA provided 'comprehensive' Mkhitaryan security plan

After Arsenal announced Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel to Baku for the Europa League final against Chelsea, UEFA issued its response.

Amid ongoing political tensions between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia, Mkhitaryan wrote on social media he was "hurt" not to be able to play.   -  Getty Images

Henrikh Mkhitaryan and Arsenal were provided with a comprehensive security plan to ensure the Armenian player's safety in Baku, UEFA said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Arsenal announced midfielder Mkhitaryan will not travel to Azerbaijan to face Chelsea in the Europa League final on May 29.

Amid ongoing political tensions between Azerbaijan and his native Armenia, Mkhitaryan wrote on social media he was "hurt" not to be able to play.

Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked in a decades-long conflict over the disputed Nagorny Karabakh region. Despite a 1994 ceasefire, frequent exchanges of fire along Karabakh's volatile frontline risk escalating into an all-out war.

UEFA said it respected the decision of Arsenal and Mkhitaryan, and explained the measures taken ahead of the final.

READ | Arsenal’s Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League final due to Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict

"Working alongside Arsenal, UEFA sought and received assurances regarding the player's safety in Azerbaijan from the highest authorities in the country," the statement said. 

"As a result of these guarantees, a comprehensive security plan was developed and given to the club. 

"While the club acknowledges the efforts that UEFA and the Azeri government have gone to in this matter, we respect the personal decision not to travel with the player."

Azerbaijan says Mkhitaryan 'can play' in Europa League final

Azerbaijani authorities issued assurances that Mkhitaryan can play in the Europa League in Azerbaijan, dismissing fears over his safety due to tensions between the countries.

“In spite of the difficult relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Mkhitaryan can play in the Europa League final in Baku,” Azerbaijan's foreign ministry spokeswoman, Leyla Abdullayeva, said.

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“Armenian sports figures have already taken part in numerous major sporting events that Azerbaijan has welcomed previously. One shouldn't mix up sport and politics,” she said.

The General Secretary of Azerbaijan's Association of Football Federations (AFFA), Elkhan Mamedov, said last week that “the Azerbaijani authorities have provided UEFA with guarantees of Mkhitaryan's safety”.

(With inputs from AFP)