Arsenal midfielder Henrikh Mkhitaryan will not travel to Azerbaijan for Arsenal’s Europa League clash with Qarabag FK on Thursday night.
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 traveling to Azerbaijan, although special exceptions to the law have been made in the past for professional athletes and entertainers.
Those issues meant that Mkhitaryan decided against traveling 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.”
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.