Arsenal news: Henrikh Mkhitaryan to miss Europa League match against Qarabag

Mkhitaryan will not travel with his team-mates this week, despite the Azerbaijan Embassy telling The Independent his nationality ‘would not influence’ any visa application

Luke Brown
Monday 01 October 2018 13:16
Arsenal 'need need to supporters their excitement' towards Europa League, says Unai Emery

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel to Azerbaijan for Arsenal’s Europa League match with Qarabag FK on Thursday night.

The Independent understands that the midfielder will remain in London instead of playing at Baku’s Olympic Stadium, which will also host the tournament’s final next May, due to continuing tensions between Azerbaijan and Mkhitaryan’s native Armenia.

There are currently no diplomatic relations between the two nations due to the ongoing Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, with the threat of large-scale hostilities greatly increasing in recent years.

Armenian citizens are currently banned from travelling to Azerbaijan, although special exceptions to the law have been made in the past for professional athletes and entertainers.

Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel to Azerbaijan (Arsenal FC via Getty)

Those issues meant that Mkhitaryan decided against travelling to Azerbaijan with former team Borussia Dortmund, for a Europa League game against Gabala FK in October 2015.

The Azerbaijan Embassy told The Independent that Mkhitaryan’s Armenian nationality “would not influence” a visa application made in his name.

“The only aspect in which the conflict influences possible non-admission of a foreign national into Azerbaijan is whether the person in question has previously visited Nagorno-Karabakh and other occupied regions of Azerbaijan without the written consent of the Republic of Azerbaijan,” the nation said in a statement.

“The decision on granting an Azerbaijani visa to all foreign nationals is subject to certain rules and regulations based on the national legislation and international agreements of Azerbaijan.

“Hence the right way to pose any question should not be whether Henrikh Mkhitaryan will be granted an Azerbaijani visa or not, which can’t be answered in advance as is the case with any country including the UK, but whether his nationality will influence his getting Azerbaijani visa, the answer of which is: No.”

After the Europa League group stage draw in August, Arsenal said they would make a decision on whether to include Mkhitaryan in their matchday squad after talking to the player.

The midfielder decided against travelling to Azerbaijan with Dortmund

Arsenal said: “Safety and security of all our players and staff is always a top priority. We will be looking into this situation, talk to the player and make a decision after that.”

Uefa had meanwhile pledged to support any visa application made on behalf of the player.

“It is a standard procedure for Uefa to send letters of support to associations, clubs or embassies in order to obtain visas for players in order to be able to travel to another country and play in Uefa matches,” a spokesperson told The Independent.

The news will come as a blow to Arsenal manager Unai Emery who had indicated that he wished to include Mkhitaryan in the group of players travelling to Azerbaijan.

Unai Emery had hoped to take the player 

“I would like that he can [travel] with us,” he commented after the draw. “And this problem, if we can together arrange [a solution], it would be better.”

Arsenal will be looking to record an eighth successive win when they travel to Baku on Thursday. They return to Premier League action on Sunday against Fulham.

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