Interview of chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Azerbaijan, MP Bob Blackman with London bureau of ONA.
– How the UK can help in diversification of Azerbaijan’s economy and developing of its non-oil sector?
– I think obviously it is very important that Azerbaijan has taken an enlightened view on how to use the money comes from oil and gas. It is obvious that one day oil and gas will run out. Although more suppliers have been found all the time, it is very important that Azerbaijan diversifies both in the field of culture, of sport, tourism and of course other industries that Azerbaijan can utilize. As long as the money is used for the benefit of other investments I think the long term future of Azerbaijan is extremely right. I had the opportunity of visiting Azerbaijan for the number of occasions. The country has been improved since the first time I have visited.
– How do you assess the current relations between Azerbaijan and the UK?
– There is a very strong relationship between the two countries. The ‘Contract of the Century’ has been renewed between Azerbaijan and BP. Southern Gas Corridor has been developed by BP in conjunction with Azerbaijan and other European partners. Alan Duncan, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas has a very strong working relationship with Azerbaijan and there is strong support from Members of Parliament, both from the House of Lords, and House of Commons.
– What is the position of the UK on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution?
– We hold commemoration each year in the Parliament, and indeed we have stood full-square behind Azerbaijan’s legitimate claim to its territory stolen from them by Armenians. There are 1.5 million internally displaced persons in Azerbaijan. We take the strong view for those people who have the right to return if they so wish to the homes of forefathers where they have lived many hundreds of years. That has gone for 27 years. We look forward to the day when the justice is restored and Azerbaijan has its territory returned.
– Britain is expected to leave the EU in March. How will this process affect Britain?
– Obviously, it is a great opportunity for Britain to become a free independent trading nation. Once again it does mean that we will no longer be tied to the EU in the way we trade. The idea is obviously is that we can set up our own international trade agreements with sovereign countries. So we will be looking for example, for a trade agreement with Azerbaijan, with benefits to both UK and also Azerbaijan as well. So, we are not tied to what the EU wants.