May 18, 2019 - 11:04 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - The Azerbaijan FA has insisted that there is “no issue” over the safety and security of Arsenal attacker Henrikh Mkhitaryan, who is likely to be left out of the Europa League final against Chelsea in Baku, The Daily Telegraph reports.
Arsenal are yet to make a final decision on whether to include Mkhitaryan in their squad due to security concerns related to diplomatic tensions between Azerbaijan and Armenia. There are no diplomatic relations between the two countries because of a longstanding conflict over Nagorno Karabakh.
Elkhan Mammadov, the general secretary of the Azerbaijan FA, said Mkhitaryan’s security is “guaranteed” in Baku.
“Our government authorities provided guarantees to Uefa for Mkhi to come to Baku, so there is no issue of security and safety,” said Mammadov.
“Even before Arsenal qualified for the final, we received a request from Uefa to provide the guarantees, our state authorities provided all the necessary security arrangements for Mkhitaryan to travel to Baku. All the safety and security is already guaranteed.”
The assurances are unlikely to convince Arsenal that including Mkhitaryan in the squad is worth the heightened risk, however. There were similar guarantees ahead of Arsenal’s group stage match in Baku earlier this season, when Mkhitaryan was left behind in London.
The likely absence of one of Arsenal’s highest-paid attackers is one of a string of issues that have overshadowed the build-up to the final. There have also been concerns over the number of Arsenal and Chelsea fans who will be able to attend the match due to the high cost and travel difficulty of reaching a venue further east than Riyadh in Saudi Arabia.
On Thursday, Arsenal said it is “quite simply not right” that so many of their supporters will not be able to make it to Baku, telling Uefa that the situation is “unacceptable and cannot be repeated”.
Uefa has responded by offering to work with the club to help fans, saying “our experts are keenly working on this matter with a view to help find cheaper solutions for travelling fans.”