Interview of Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Azerbaijan James Sharp to APA
– Recently UK Minister for Exports Mr. Stuart visited Azerbaijan, I would like to ask about the visit's results...
– It was an excellent visit. The main reason for the Minister to visit was to hold our high-level trade and economic dialogue, known as the Joint Intergovernmental Commission. Although the UK is known as the main investor in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas sector, we designed the visit and the meetings around the non-oil economy, in order to support the diversification of Azerbaijan’s economy. So during his visit a number of agreements were signed to strengthen cooperation in areas such as renewable energy, education and digital government, and the dialogue also covered healthcare, financial services, creative industries and ICT.
It was clear from the discussions that there is appetite on both sides to grow our bilateral trading relationship further. During the visit, the Minister attended the launch of the newly-established British Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which has been created exactly to support and increase bilateral trade and investment. So in our view, the Minister’s visit has established an excellent platform for building a wider trade relationship as the world economy transitions away from oil and gas.
I should just add that – in addition to his business meetings – Mr Stuart also ensured he learned more about Azerbaijani heritage and culture, visiting Icheri Sheher, Atashgah and Qala Qorugu, which he enjoyed immensely. And he also got some exercise, going for a bike ride on the boulevard!
– How do you assess the prospects for British capital participation in the liberated territories of Azerbaijan?
– It is great to see UK companies already playing an active role in the demining of these territories, helping to save lives. For example, one British company is delivering mine clearance equipment and training to clear the ground for the new Fuzuli airport. We expect other UK firms to get involved too.
More broadly we hope to work together to realise opportunities in the recovered territories in sectors including renewable energy, mining, tourism and agriculture. I very much welcome the President’s focus on green energy and smart cities, and I hope even more UK firms can support the process of building green, inclusive communities that work for all, and create a showpiece for Azerbaijan.
– Last month local media reported that U.K. firm Chapman Taylor won a contract to create a master plan for Shusha. Mr. Ambassador, could you give more information about that?
Yes, I saw those news reports. Chapman Taylor have done a lot of architectural design work here in Azerbaijan, and are clearly respected by the authorities. I haven’t seen their plans for Shusha yet, but am looking forward to it.
– Azerbaijan's government aims at developing renewable energy resources and turning Karabakh region into the “green energy zone”. Last month the country’s Energy Ministry and BP have signed an Implementation Agreement to build a solar power plant in this region. Thus, what are the UK’s plans in the renewable energy industry of Azerbaijan, especially in those liberated territories?
– Yes, I’m really pleased to see the government’s commitment to develop more renewable energy, which is so important for the future not just of Azerbaijan but the whole planet as we face global warming. The UK is a world leader in tackling climate change. For example, we’ve recently set in law the world's most ambitious climate change target - cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 compared with 1990 levels. And later this year we’re hosting the next big global summit (COP26), which will be crucial in tackling climate change. We’re looking forward to welcoming President Aliyev there, and we’re looking forward to a more ambitious Azerbaijani emissions reduction target.
As regards opportunities for renewable energy here, as I say we very much welcome the President’s focus on green energy in the recovered territories. The agreement with BP is one important step, and I’m sure that BP will be looking for further opportunities. Like the UK government, BP have made a commitment to net zero green-house gas emissions by 2050, and renewable energy is a key element of that strategy. We as an Embassy have funded a study on Azerbaijan’s offshore wind energy potential, which looks huge. The UK is the world’s leading producer of offshore wind energy, so our firms have a lot of expertise to offer Azerbaijan.
– And my final question is about Shusha Declaration what was signed between your country NATO ally - Turkey and Azerbaijan. What the UK government's view on this pact?
– Both Turkey and Azerbaijan are friends of the UK, and Turkey is – as you say - a NATO ally. We also greatly appreciate Azerbaijan’s Partnership for Peace programme with the NATO Alliance, and your country’s contributions to multinational NATO missions, such as in Afghanistan, which have been a valuable contribution to global security.
The Shusha Declaration itself is primarily a matter for Azerbaijan and Turkey. I would just say more broadly that – following last year’s conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia– what seems to me to be important is that the parties build up trust between themselves through dialogue and concrete confidence building measures. So the recent exchange of mine maps and detainees was an important step, and I hope we’ll see more such agreements.