By Leman Mammadova
Being strong economic partners, Azerbaijan and UK are keen on further expansion of bilateral cooperation by implementing large-scale projects in both energy and non-energy sectors.
The Azerbaijan-UK energy forum was held within the framework of the third meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation in London on May 22.
The forum, led by the UK Prime Minister's Trade Envoy to Azerbaijan Baroness Emma Nicholson and Azerbaijan’s Energy Minister Parviz Shahbazov, focused on the development of the oil and gas sector, the implemented projects, new bilateral cooperation opportunities, as well as the measures taken in the field of renewable energy and energy efficiency in Azerbaijan.
Speaking at the event, Shahbazov spoke about the importance of energy cooperation and joint implementation of the Contract of the Century first signed in 1994.
In his words, energy partnership with the UK is not limited to the investment of more than $25 billion in the oil and gas sector of Azerbaijan.
The minister stressed that successful cooperation in the energy sector plays an important role in the recognition of Azerbaijan as a reliable oil and gas supplier in the international markets and a guarantor of energy security for many countries ensuring diversification interests.
Shahbazov highly appreciated the British oil and gas company BP's role in the implementation of Azerbaijan's energy strategy, noting that new projects will ensure that this collaboration will continue until the middle of the century.
He also noted that presently, two countries' joint energy cooperation agenda includes projects such as the Southern Gas Corridor, the development of a new phase of the Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli fields, the D 230 perspective block, the Dayazsulu Absheron and Shafag-Asiman projects as well as joint activities in renewable energy.
The minister further added that the UK's experience in this area will contribute to the development of renewable energy sources, including wind, solar, and small rivers.
At the forum, the head of the Apparatus of the Energy Ministry Zaur Mammadov made a presentation on energy reforms in Azerbaijan, SOCAR’s Vice President Rafiga Huseynzade - on oil and gas sector, and representatives of BP and SNC Lavalin-Atkins companies - on renewable energy development.
On the same day, the third meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation was held, co-chaired by Minister Parviz Shahbazov and the UK’s Minister of State for Trade Policy George Hollingbery.
At the meeting, the sides discussed existing relations in various spheres of cooperation and prospects for expanding bilateral ties.
Shahbazov briefed on the economic relations between Azerbaijan and the UK, stressing that there is successful cooperation between the two countries in various fields.
He went on to say that the trade turnover between the two countries increased by 61.1 percent last year and 89.6 percent in the first quarter of this year compared to the same period of 2018.
Shahbazov noted that currently there are 437 British companies operating in Azerbaijan, and the UK’s investment in Azerbaijan's economy amounted to $28 billion.
Hollingbery, in turn, expressed interest in developing relations with Azerbaijan in various directions, adding that joint activities will play an important role for this purpose.
Given the fact that oil and gas sector plays an important role in the bilateral cooperation, the meeting identified future priorities in energy cooperation, which include reducing production costs in the oil and gas sector, improving hydrocarbon productivity, developing new technologies, as well as renewable energy and energy efficiency.
Moreover, the interest for cooperation to create a better business environment for trade and investment was noted. The Azerbaijani side said that industrial parks, in particular, Sumgayit Chemical Park and Pirallahi Industrial Park, public-private partnership projects create new opportunities for further cooperation, noting the need for cooperation with UK companies in agriculture, tourism and other areas of the non-oil sector.
It was mentioned that the UK can share its experience in agriculture, production technology, and can implement joint projects on priority directions. The signing of a memorandum of understanding between relevant bodies contributes to the process.
The meeting noted that it is important to exchange experiences on the establishment and development of tourism and recreation zones, and to continue cooperation within the framework of exhibitions and business forums. In the field of education, the opportunities for expansion of relations between universities of both countries, English language teaching, vocational training and other opportunities should be considered.
It was said that cooperation in the areas of high technology, digital public services, space industry, transport, food security, and ecology is one of the most important aspects for the development of bilateral relations.
At the end of the meeting, the Protocol on the results of the third meeting of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission was signed by the co-chairs.
The fourth meeting of the Azerbaijan-UK Intergovernmental Commission on Economic Cooperation will be held in Baku in 2020.
Diplomatic relations between Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom were established on March 11, 1992. The UK is a strategic partner of Azerbaijan in many spheres of cooperation and both countries are interested in expanding economic ties.
For the UK, the Caspian region is an area of great opportunity as Azerbaijan makes the most of its strategic geographic position, energy resources and transport links.
BP is the largest foreign investor in Azerbaijan that helped the Azerbaijani government transform the economy, establishing a solid foundation to build business success.
In recent years, the bilateral relations have been made even stronger with the establishment of the Joint Intergovernmental Commission between the two countries and the UK-Azerbaijan Partnership Program in the Oil and Gas Sector.
Leman Mammadova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @leman_888
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