Trend's exclusive interview with Dr. Lori Bristow, the British Ambassador to Azerbaijan
Question: What importance does the United Kingdom attach to the co-operation with the South Caucasus countries? What factors intensify and broaden the cooperation and what factors hamper it?
Answer: The future of the South Caucasus region is important to the UK. We want all three South Caucasus countries to develop further towards stability, democracy and the rule of law. Without stability and peace in the region it will be difficult to achieve lasting economic development or for the countries to achieve their full potential. Azerbaijan is developing its relations with western democratic institutions, and I think this will help Azerbaijan to implement real democratic and economic reforms.
Question: How much does the current level of relations between Azerbaijan and Great Britain meet the potential and interests of two countries?
Answer: Our bilateral relations are at a good level. As you know Great Britain is interested in development of oil and gas sector in Azerbaijan and we are delighted that BP is leading the international consortia developing Azerbaijan's major offshore oil and gas fields. But the relationship now goes much wider than this. We increasingly work together on a much broader range of issues including international security. And it is very much in the UK's interests to support Azerbaijan in making a successful transition to democracy and the rule of law. I would of course like to see our bilateral relations develop further. I would like to see more people travelling between Azerbaijan and the UK for business, education and for pleasure. I would like to see more British companies operating here in the non-oil sector. I am sure that Azerbaijan will be able to attract more foreign companies and investment to the non-oil sector if she succeeds in creating an attractive, open and competitive business climate.
Question: How could the UK as a member of the European Union assist Azerbaijan in the integration to this structure? Is Europe prepared to affiliate the South Caucasus countries into the European Union and how much are the South Caucasus countries prepared to enter the EU?
Answer: The UK and the EU strongly support Azerbaijan's wish to achieve freedom, security and prosperity for all her people. This is essentially what we mean when we talk about European values. All three South Caucasus countries recently signed a Action Plans, which set out how each individual country in the region and the EU will work together in the next few years to support these countries' further integration with Europe. I hope that in Azerbaijan the EU Action Plan will be able to support rapid progress in economic reform and in strengthening the foundations of freedom, democracy and the rule of law. This is the basis of Azerbaijan's relationship with the EU for the long term, whether or not Azerbaijan chooses one day to seek membership of the EU.
Question: How could the conflicts in the South Caucasus be resolved? Could the UK intensify its efforts in resolving Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and liquidation consequences of Armenian aggression against Azerbaijan, which becomes an important alternative source for ensuring energy security of Europe?
Answer: First of all I think we should acknowledge the enormous and continuing costs of this conflict - the lives lost or ruined, the damage done to the societies affected, the opportunities lost. The UK supports efforts to find a just and lasting solution that allows the peoples of the South Caucasus to put this terrible conflict behind them. I believe that the conflict can only be resolved through negotiation, and the UK welcomes the fact that the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia are involved in negotiations for a peaceful solution.
Question: Energy sphere is considered as an important factor of stability and integration, an essential part of foreign and security policy in the European continent. How could this factor stimulate the recognition of Azerbaijan as the leader of its region?
Answer: I think there is a very important importunity for Azerbaijan to contribute to European and global energy security, while at the same time securing her own economic security for the long term. We believe that Europe's energy security will be assured through developing diversity of supply and through open and competitive energy markets. I believe that Azerbaijan's future security and prosperity will be secured through making effective use of the oil revenues. I am glad that Azerbaijan is playing a leading role in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a UK government initiative that seeks to improve the way governments manage the wealth generated by the oil and gas industry. This alone will not of course guarantee that the oil revenues are effectively managed. But the Initiative can contribute to strengthening public accountability and to public debate about how best to use the resources that belong to the people of Azerbaijan.