Morton, BP and others

57 last year’s war in Karabakh, Britain, as is customary in the modern history of Azerbaijan, is once again striving to play the role of the leading power in this country.

Wendy Morton, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for European Neighborhood and the Americas, is the second high-ranking Western politician to visit Baku after the 44-day war. Her visit on 8-9 February was preceded by a voyage on January 27 of Jean-Baptiste Lemoine, Secretary of State for European Affairs and Foreign Affairs of France. Both were delighted with the relations of their states with the authoritarian regime in Azerbaijan. However, in terms of superiority in strategic partnership with Azerbaijan, the UK is still ahead. And not only because London, represented by British Petroleum (BP), openly supported the struggle of Ilham Aliyev for the restored territorial integrity, in contrast to Paris, which threatened to recognize the independence of Karabakh in case  of a complete defeat of Armenia on the fields of the Karabakh battle.

In the last years of the USSR, Britain, represented by BP, turned its eyes to the energy resources of the Caspian, sending high emissaries here, who laid the British leadership in the affairs of Azerbaijan. It is no coincidence that BP took the lead as an operator of oil and gas and pipeline projects in the region, paving the way for eminent foreign companies, including French ones, to interests in Azerbaijan.

Ms. Morton has promoted in post-war Baku such issues as the development of green energy, as well as the protection of women’s rights and the fight against gender-based violence. These two topics were intensively lobbied both on the eve of the visit and during Morton’s meetings with the authorities and the civil sector of Azerbaijan.

In the first case, it was about the participation of British companies for the development of alternative energy in Azerbaijan and, in particular, in the liberated territories. “The UK is ready to support Azerbaijan’s transition to renewable energy sources and achieve ambitious climate targets, including further reductions in carbon emissions by 2030,” Wendy Morton conveyed a message to President Aliyev.

The second message included an invitation to Azerbaijan to join the Istanbul Convention. “The United Kingdom is one of the leading countries in promoting the rights of women and girls and gender equality, and therefore calls on Azerbaijan to sign the Istanbul Convention, which will protect women from domestic violence,” Morton said.

The Council of Europe Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Violence and Domestic Violence against Women, known as the Istanbul Convention, was adopted by PACE and on May 26, 2011, was declared open for signature in Istanbul. The Istanbul Convention includes provisions on violence against women, measures to protect victims of domestic violence, preventive measures, bringing these perpetrators to justice, improving national legislation to ensure effective protection, and so on. Of the CE member states, only Russia and Azerbaijan have not ratified this convention.

Both signals were received by the President and Vice President of Azerbaijan. The first one declared the liberated territories a “green zone” of revival. At a videoconference on the occasion of the International Day of Women and Girls in Science within the framework of the Year announced by the Organization of the Islamic World of Education, Science and Culture (ICESCO) women,” the second signal recalled the traditional respect for the rights of women in Azerbaijan.

Taking into account the tightening policy in the West on climate change and the creation of clean energy it can be concluded that BP and other British companies specializing in the field of alternative energy are seeking to maintain energy and other leadership in Azerbaijan.

It can also be expected that by November this year, when Scotland hosts a large-scale UN conference on climate change with the participation of world leaders, London and Baku will develop a post-war line of cooperation strategy.  Because of the return of the United States to the agreement on climate change, which the new White House administration intends to implement, it is possible that the Biden-Aliyev dialogue of April 2016, which preceded Azerbaijan’s short-term military success in the long-term battle for Karabakh, is possible. The Biden administration has already declared gender and other equality a priority in its policy, and it will become a template for building relationships with non-democratic regimes.

If to believe Ms. Morton’s rhetoric, the energy and gender issues, which are closely watched in London and Washington, were among the important issues on the agenda of the meeting of the annual political consultations between Baku and London, in which she took part. From the point of view of geopolitics and Caucasian affairs, they can be considered important, but not the most important. The deepening of the British-Azerbaijani strategic partnership remains important, which will undoubtedly show itself this year as well as in all previous years.


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