With Azerbaijan increasingly registering on the world radar for its energy wealth and on-going conflict with Armenia, a group of UK Parliamentarians undertook a five-day fact-finding mission to witness the challenges and opportunities facing the country.
The delegation was headed by Mark Field, MP for the Cities of London and Westminster, Chairman of the Azerbaijan APPG, and member of the Commons Intelligence and Security Select Committee. Other members were Gerry Sutcliffe, Labour MP for Bradford South and frontbench Home Affairs spokesperson; Stephen Hammond, Conservative MP for Wimbledon and a Parliamentary Private Secretary; Bob Blackman, Conservative MP for Harrow East; Lord Rogan, Ulster Unionist Party; and Lord Kilclooney, a Crossbencher.
During the trip, the Parliamentarians were briefed on the prospects for expanding Azerbaijan’s already substantial exports of oil and gas, and for increasing the considerable UK investment in the country. They were also briefed on the ongoing conflict with Armenia over that country’s illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) and the seven surrounding regions.
Mark Field MP commented: “I felt it was important to bring Parliamentary colleagues from both Houses and different parties to see for themselves the many opportunities – and challenges – existing in this strategically vital country and region. In recent years, Azerbaijan has charted one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and has used that wealth to rebuild its infrastructure, educate its young people, and house around one million refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) who have suffered at the hands of Armenian aggression. It is a model secular Muslim state, and we witnessed for ourselves the religious tolerance that is extended to all faiths.”
To view a brief video of the trip, please visit TEAS TV at https://teas.eu/teas-tv
Highlights of the fact-finding tour were:
· a meeting with President Ilham Aliyev, and with Ali Hasanov, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the State Committee on IDP and Refugee Issues; Oqtay Asadov, Speaker, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament), together with Abulfaz Qarayev, Minister of Culture and Tourism; Mahmud Mammad-Quliyev, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; and a dinner hosted by the Azerbaijan-UK Parliamentary Friendship Group.
· a meeting with the British Ambassador, Dr Carolyn Browne, and an Embassy reception with the British business community.
· visits to three camps for refugees and IDPs who are casualties of Armenian aggression.
· a visit to the trenches on the front line with Armenian-occupied territory near Agdam.
· a visit to the Guba region, which is amongst the most picturesque in Azerbaijan, including the Red District which is home to around 4,000 Mountain Jews; and a visit to the site of the massacre committed by the Armenian Dashnaks and Bolsheviks in March 1918.
· a visit to BP’s Sangachal terminal, soon to become the world’s largest oil and gas terminus.
· laying wreathes at the monument to former President Heydar Aliyev, National Leader of Azerbaijan; in Martyrs’ Alley for those civilian Azerbaijanis killed by Soviet troops during Black January (20 January 1990) and during the NK conflict; and at the monument to British troops killed in action in Azerbaijan during the First World War.
The Azerbaijan APPG will be producing a report on the country and its importance to the UK and the West over the summer.