By Vafa Ismayilova
British ambassador to Azerbaijan James Sharp has said that the UK supported Azerbaijanis through a £1m donation via the ICRC to those most affected in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The ambassador made the remarks in a video address in 2020 posted on the UK embassy's official Twitter and Facebook pages on December 30. Sharp focused on the challenges that the world faced in 2020 and the opportunities for Azerbaijan with UK support to "build back better in 2021". The video address was made in Azerbaijani with English subtitles over it.
"The UK has... supported Azerbaijanis in need, through a £1m donation via the ICRC to those most affected in the recent Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. In partnership with the UN we’ve ensured that women and girls in conflict affected areas received vital essentials through the distribution of dignity packs. While 2020 has brought exceptional challenges, I truly believe there is hope. Out of the most challenging circumstances, can also come great opportunities to build back better," he said.
The ambassador said that just as the post-COVID situation will bring about opportunities to build back better, so will Azerbaijan’s post-conflict environment.
"Hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijani IDPs will soon be returning back to their home towns and villages after almost thirty years. As these settlements are reconstructed it offers an opportunity for model settlements at the forefront of technology and environmental friendliness to be created. Settlements in which all sections of society are able to contribute and have their needs recognised, whether they be women, veterans or people with disability. Civil society, in partnership with Azerbaijan’s international friends will also have a vital role in helping the Azerbaijani government and IDPs communities to build back better," Sharp added.
He stressed that "the UK has been a proud supporter of IDP communities through a range of initiatives including the British Council run learning-hubs. The UK has also supported the drafting of a National Action Plan on Women Peace and Security which will be a vital platform in ensuring women’s voices are heard in the post-conflict environment. I hope Azerbaijan will adopt this Action Plan early in 2021. I look forward to the UK expanding our support to Azerbaijan’s IDP communities in the coming years".
On behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, Sharp offered his sincere condolences over losses during the recent clashes in and around Nagorno-Karabakh.
"Again, our thoughts are with the friends and families of all the victims of the conflict during this difficult time," he said.
The ambassador hailed UK-Azerbaijani cooperation in fight against COVID-19.
"The UK is proud to be supporting Azerbaijan in the fight against COVID-19 through our work in training medical workers and helping them develop new skills, as well as strengthening health services in rural areas. More broadly, UK scientific expertise is at the forefront of the battle against COVID-19 in helping bring life-saving vaccines to the world," he said.
Sharp noted that in its role as UN Climate Change Conference, COP26 Presidency, the UK is committed to increasing climate ambition.
"As a strategic energy partner of Azerbaijan, the UK and our companies, are eager to expand our cooperation and support Azerbaijan’s energy diversification towards greener energy sources, so that it too can make ambitious commitments on greenhouse gas reductions," he said.
He stressed that that COVID-19 led to an unprecedented shutdown of large parts of the global economy with severe consequences for all countries.
"As we recover we have an opportunity to create more environmentally friendly economies which protect and restore nature, and reduce our exposure to deadly viruses and climate impacts," the ambassador said.
He described 2020 as the most challenging year "many of us will have ever faced" and remembered those who passed away during the year due to this terrible virus.
"So, while 2020 was a year of challenges let us look upon 2021 as a year of opportunities. Opportunities to make our societies stronger and healthier, our economies greener, and our environment cleaner. I congratulate all Azerbaijanis on World Azerbaijanis Solidarity Day and would like to wish everyone in Azerbaijan, including our British community, a healthy and happy new year," he concluded.
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