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LONDON CELEBRATES 20 YEARS OF AZERBAIJANI INDEPENDENCE Also in this issue: Azerbaijan takes UN Security Council seat Two decades of Azerbaijani success remembered in European Parliament TEAS brings Ibonna Botto-Shirmammadova back to France after a lifetime away Jazzman Sarabsky wows a Berlin crowd TEAS Banking Conference enlightens the City
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21 November The theatre of genius: examining the life and work of Professor Elchin Efendiyev Pushkin House, 5a, Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1A 2TA 19.30hrs. Admission Free The drama and prose of Professor Elchin Efendiyev has delighted audiences for decades. Indeed, his name is extremely well-known to both his native Azerbaijani countrymen and serious critics across the Russian Federation. However, Professor Elchin remains largely unknown in the West. In this TEAS-sponsored lecture, David Parry will explore this remarkable playwright’s very distinctive satire, surreal thought and philosophical reflections. The talk will also precede the UK première run of Professor Elchin’s comedy Shakespeare at The Horse Hospital in London in December 2011. To attend, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
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Azerbaijani success recognised in the European Parliament Azerbaijan takes seat at the UN Security Council The panel acknowledged Azerbaijani success across two decades: (from left) Tale Heydarov; H.E. Emin Eyyubov; Tunne Kelam, MEP; Göran Lindblad; Ivo Vajgl, MEP; and Evgeni Kirilov MEP
TEAS has expanded its European activities by hosting a conference in the European Parliament, Brussels, for over 60 stakeholders. Held on 20 October, this was entitled 20 years of independence: Azerbaijan’s future opportunities. During the event, the distinguished Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) Tunne Kelam (EPP – Estonia); Evgeni Kirilov (S&D – Bulgaria); and Ivo Vajgl (ALDE – Slovenia) joined H.E. Emin Eyyubov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to European Institutions, in giving an optimistic outlook for the country. They stressed the need for peace in the Armenian– Azerbaijani conflict over NagornoKarabakh and the continuity of accelerated economic development. The other members of the panel were Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS; and Göran Lindblad, former Vice-President and Chair, Political Affairs Committee, PACE, who moderated the discussion. Initially, Mr Kelam gave a brief overview of Azerbaijani history, explaining how the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) was the first democracy in the Muslim East, prior to the Soviet invasion. Mr Kirilov went on to explain the need for reconciliation between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh situation, and the requirement to ensure that Azerbaijani sovereign territory is maintained. Mr Vajgl went on to emphasise how EU member states are developing good relations with Azerbaijan and contributing towards conflict resolution. He stated that the Nagorno-Karabakh issue remains “a piece of Cold War” and a “deeply rooted political problem”. The MEP commented on the activities of the OSCE Minsk Group, and urged the Co-Chairs to increase their efforts. He argued in favour of giving a clear path for EU alliance with both Azerbaijan and Armenia to accelerate regional development.
Ambassador Eyyubov summarised Azerbaijani democratic development and explained that his country was “an ancient nation”, despite being a “young State”. Following an initial period of “disarray” from 1991–93, due to the war with Armenia, combined with economic recession, the situation rapidly improved and stability was achieved. He emphasised the potential economic benefits to Armenia if peace was achieved, as this would enable hydrocarbon resources to be transported across its territory. The Ambassador stressed that, since 1994, Azerbaijan had been transformed into “a locomotive” for hydrocarbon resources, becoming a secure source of Western European energy. He cited figures from The Economist, which concluded that Azerbaijan had experienced the greatest GDP growth in the world during the past decade, now accounting for 83 per cent of the entire South Caucasus GDP. Turning to security, he underlined the participation of his country in various NATO peacekeeping missions, including those in Afghanistan. He acknowledged that the greatest challenge remains the achievement of “a constructive solution” to the Nagorno-Karabakh situation. Mr Vajgl expressed hope for stronger cooperation between the EU and Azerbaijan, which could potentially become an EU member. He also called for an end to the Armenian invasion of Azerbaijani territory. Mr Kirilov explained the need for energy supply diversity, also mentioning the necessity for enhancement of relations with Turkmenistan and the expedited development of Transcaspian pipelines. The Ambassador commented that the decision on the Azerbaijani government’s favoured pipeline projects would be finalised by the end of 2011. The panel discussion was followed by a reception, having been well-attended by MEPs, EU Commission members, the diplomatic community and NGO representatives.
On 24 October, Azerbaijan was awarded the final open seat at the UN Security Council in New York, after Slovenia dropped its bid. This enabled Azerbaijan to obtain three-quarters of the vote in the final ballot. Azerbaijanis and supporters of the country across the world applauded this development. Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, commented that his country was a worthy winner. He continued: “Of course you can imagine our feelings after the 17 rounds of voting. I think that we, honestly speaking, expected to be elected because, on Friday evening and throughout today, the tendency was that the General Assembly mostly supported Azerbaijan.” Azerbaijan and Slovenia were locked in a contest for the fifth seat this year. Azerbaijan was the clear front-runner, and after 16 rounds of voting in the UN General Assembly by all 193 UN member nations, Slovenia decided to withdraw. Following the vote, Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, released a statement congratulating the new non-permanent members of the Security Council. She explained: “In the coming year, the UN Security Council will address many pressing global challenges, including nuclear non-proliferation, counter-terrorism, conflict prevention and resolution, and the oversight of complex UN field operations, and the US looks forward to a strong partnership with the incoming members.” Dennis Sammut, Executive Director, LINKS, commented: “The election of Azerbaijan to the UN Security Council is a reflection of a very active and, in many ways, successful foreign policy pursued by that country. During the election, Azerbaijan was strongly supported by member states of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), the Arab League, and the Non-Aligned Movement, together with most CIS countries. Elmar Mammadyarov has been a very effective Foreign Minister in many respects, and has been working to secure the UN Security Council seat for some time. This international body is the ultimate guarantor for world peace, and members of the Security Council are expected to lead by example.”
Politics & News
and how this built upon the progressive achievements of the Azerbaijan Democratic Republic (ADR) (1918–20). 4
Politics & News
Ibonna was a young member of the French Communist party in the years following World War II
Frenchwoman returns home from Azerbaijan after 65 years
With the assistance of TEAS, a Frenchwoman who had married a Soviet soldier in 1947 and followed him to Azerbaijan has returned to her childhood village in the French Alps for the first time, now aged 83 years. In the first instance, Ibonna BottoShirmammadova (née Yvonne Marie Botto), returned to Passy in the Southeastern Haute Savoie region to visit her parents’ grave. Wearing a blue kerchief on her head and speaking in rusty French, Ibonna commented: “I’m happy to see my Mum and my Dad.” She added in Azerbaijani: “It’s very emotional for me to be here, and I am sad not to see their faces.” Eliza Pieter, Senior Public Affairs Officer, TEAS Paris, recalled: “She was 19 when she waved her parents goodbye and now, 65 years later, she meets them again, in a cemetery.” Just days before leaving her little house, located in a cotton-growing settlement around 160 miles from the Azerbaijani capital Baku, Ibonna had told the AFP agency how she met her husband after he escaped from Nazi captivity and joined the French Resistance. She remembered: “After the war, he stayed in France because Stalin said he did not want those who had been captured (by the Germans). He found a job in a factory where my father also worked.” Ibonna’s father was a Communist who had supplied Resistance fighters with weapons and food. The young Azerbaijani started to attend Communist gatherings at the family home, and fell in love with the young Soviet soldier. However, three years after arriving in the Soviet Union, her beloved husband sadly died. She said: “He was badly beaten when he was a German prisoner, and this was the reason for his death at such an early
Farahim accompanied Ibonna, his mother, on her first trip to Paris for over 60 years
age.” Ibonna made the decision to return to France with the couple’s only child, and wrote to the Soviet authorities asking for permission to leave. She recalled: “The answer came from Moscow that I could return. But it was explained that I could not take my son with me, as he was a Soviet child.” Ibonna thus decided that she could not abandon her son and would remain in Azerbaijan. Her father died in 1964, her mother in 1978, and her brother in 1989. She had never met some of her other relatives, and many in Passy had been previously unsure as to her existence. Marcelle Botto, her cousin, explained: “It was a family myth, and I’d only seen a few pictures. We hadn’t had any news since 1993, and I’d all but lost hope.” Ibonna’s French passport was confiscated when she entered the Soviet Union. Since then, she had been unable to provide proof of her French citizenship, and her visa applications had failed. Marcelle continued: “She wrote to President ‘François Vitterran’ in 1991. I don’t know why, but we never obtained the visa.” After a nine-day trip, Ibonna returned to her adoptive land, where her seven children and 30 grandchildren live. In order to successfully apply for Ibonna’s visa, TEAS sourced her documents, photos and birth certificate from French archives, in addition to those from the National Museum of the Resistance in France. TEAS is also producing a television documentary on her life, which will be screened on French TV.
Ambassador addresses LSE students H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Ambassador of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UK, has delivered a lecture to the LSE Students’ Union Grimshaw International Relations Club as part of the celebrations to commemorate the 20th anniversary of regaining Azerbaijani independence. Speaking before 40 students, he outlined the struggle to regain independence during the collapse of the Soviet Union,
The Ambassador continued: “Azerbaijan is located in a complex geopolitical position, and was in a challenging state of economic disadvantage when it regained its independence. The Azerbaijani enclave of NagornoKarabakh always contained around 75 per cent Armenians, but both nationalities lived alongside each other. The conflict with Armenia resulted in nearly a million refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) being expelled from their homeland, thereafter living in camps across their own country. Following the ceasefire in 1994, Armenia has ignored the four UN Security Council Resolutions passed against its illegal occupation of these territories.” He also explained the failure of the OSCE Minsk Group, which has been attempting to achieve a negotiated ceasefire since 1994. Ambassador Gurbanov went on to outline Azerbaijani membership of various international bodies, including the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe (PACE); Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE); the EU Eastern Partnership; and its participation in the NATO Partnership for Peace Programme. He went on to discuss the Basic Principles proposed by Azerbaijan to ensure the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including the granting of a high degree of autonomy for the region. The Ambassador also discussed the achievements of Azerbaijan during the past two decades: “For several years, Azerbaijan posted the highest GDP growth in the world, and is in a privileged situation. Currently, the Baku–Tibilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline, of which BP has the controlling share, delivers 1m barrels of oil per day. There are more than 170 UK companies in Azerbaijan, and it is home to more than 5000 UK expatriates. Azerbaijan is attempting to diversify its economy away from the oil and gas sector, and is particularly concentrating on such sectors as IT, tourism and agriculture.” He concluded: “20 years is a short period, and Azerbaijan has faced many challenges. It has achieved a great deal, and the government has a responsibility to ensure future economic sustainability.” The speech was followed by a wide-ranging question-andanswer session, covering such areas as preparations to host the Eurovision Song Contest, and the potential threat of armed conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.
20th anniversary of Azerbaijani independence celebrated in style
An audience of over 1,500 attended the independence celebration
Dr Laurie Bristow, former UK Ambassador to Azerbaijan, explained how he witnessed the rapid development of the country during his tenure
London resident Nikki demonstrated the qualities that made her a Eurovision winner
The Rast Jazz Group stopped the show with their rich blend of western pop, soul, jazz and Azerbaijani mugham
On 19 October, in excess of 1,500 people descended on the Central Hall Westminster, a stone’s throw from the Palace of Westminster, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of regaining Azerbaijani independence. This glittering event was organised by the Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the UK and TEAS, with the support of the Heydar Aliyev Foundation and the Azerbaijani Ministry of Culture and Tourism. More than 70 VIPs were present, including H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK; H.E. Volodymyr Khandogiy, Ukrainian Ambassador to the UK; H.E. Giorgi Badridze, Georgian Ambassador to the UK; Farkhad Khalilov, Chair, Azerbaijan Artists’ Union; and Tale Heydarov, Chairman, TEAS. Following a reception, during which attendees enjoyed wine, juice and baklavas, whilst viewing a photographic exhibition focusing on Azerbaijani culture and history, Sabina Rakcheyeva, Member of the European Cultural Parliament and Cultural Advisor, TEAS, welcomed all attendees. Ambassador Gurbanov then took the stage and commented: “This is a special
day for the citizens of Azerbaijan. Just 20 years ago, I would not have believed that my country would have been transformed into one of the most developed young, post-Soviet, states. Azerbaijan is now a member of the UN, OSCE and Council of Europe, amongst other international organisations. When the Soviet Union collapsed, it was undeniably a difficult time for the country, but stability was soon achieved, and the last two decades have seen us achieve a great deal.” Dr Laurie Bristow, former UK Ambassador to Azerbaijan, continued: “During my period as Ambassador from 2004–07, I saw history unfold before my eyes. Azerbaijan now has great self-confidence on the world stage, and plays an essential role in maintaining a secure energy source to the EU. It is also seeking to develop the non-oil sector. I look forward to the next 20 years.” Tale Heydarov acknowledged: “On the 20th anniversary of independence, we should reflect that Azerbaijan has achieved a great deal. Independence has given Azerbaijani youth the chance to study in the West and the nation takes direction from the UK and other developed countries. We have derived
our values from Western Europe and achieved stability.” Making reference to the ongoing Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions, he continued: “We must not forget the conflicts in the region, and need the support of the UK and other countries to solve these. One of the most important benefits of independence was that we could establish our own, independent, foreign policy. Long live Azerbaijan and long live independence!” In May this year, Azerbaijan achieved success in the Eurovision Song Contest, with a duet performed by Londonbased Nigar Jamal and Baku-based Eldar Gasimov, under the stage names of Ell and Nikki, entitled Running Scared. Thus, in celebration of their country’s success, they reprised the winning song, receiving rapturous applause. The Rast Jazz Group also performed their exciting blend of western jazz, pop, soul and Azerbaijani mugham, exemplifying the first-class musicianship in Azerbaijan. This was a dynamic and exciting event, and a worthy celebration of Azerbaijani success across two decades.
Photo: Thérèse Saba
Guitarist Stanislav Hvartchilkov and violinist Nazrin Rashidova demonstrated the full gamut of their considerable talents at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly
An harmonious combination in Piccadilly
The 23-year-old Azerbaijani violinist Nazrin Rashidova has performed a memorable concert at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly, duetting with Bulgarian guitarist Stanislav Hvartchilkov. The concert began with Bach’s Sonata in A Minor, originally written for flute and continuo, in an arrangement by Tilman Hoppstock, with the guitar taking the continuo part. The piece included a wonderfully serene Adagio and an enlivening Allegro. This was followed by Mozart’s Duo in G, arranged by Eliot Fisk, originally written for violin and viola, in an arrangement that retained the original violin part. The piece featuring a melodious Allegro, glorious and profound Adagio, and a Rondeau, replete with dance rhythms. The final piece was considerably more contemporary, being the Argentinean composer Astor Piazzolla’s Histoire du Tango suite, initially written for flute and guitar. Charting the development of tango from 1900 onwards, the piece was full of driving rhythms and lyrical melodies, providing much scope for the two instrumentalists to demonstrate a range of percussive effects. Following rapturous applause, the duo performed Elgar’s haunting Salut d’amour, which Stanislav dedicated to his wife.
Renara’s rêverie returns to London
The remarkable Paris-based Azerbaijani pianist and composer Renara Akhoundova (see TEAS Magazine, October 2010, pp.11–12) is scheduled to return to London on 18 November for an intimate concert at St. James’s Church, 197, Piccadilly, London, W1J 9LL. During a successful international career, classically-trained Renara has performed in over 40 countries and cut seven CDs. Her concerts are notable for their spiritual, meditative qualities, and towards their conclusion, she will often perform a totally improvised piece, inspired by the audience. Part of last year’s concert in London may be viewed at http://bit.ly/v0vrV7. To purchase tickets
at £15 (concessions: £10), call +44 (0)207 381 0441; e-mail: email@example.com
tickets at £8 may be purchased via PayPal from firstname.lastname@example.org.
Professor Elchin’s work Jazzman Sarabsky goes brought to the fore hip in Berlin The drama and prose of Professor Elchin Efendiyev, Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan, has delighted audiences for decades. His name remains extremely well-known to both his native Azerbaijani countrymen and across the CIS, and his works have been translated into over 20 languages. To date, he has completed around 100 books and more than 5m copies of his works have been sold (see TEAS Magazine, September 2011, pp.6–7). Despite this, Professor Elchin remains largely unknown in the West. To redress the balance, David Parry will explore this remarkable playwright’s very distinctive satire, surreal thought and philosophical reflections during a free TEAS-sponsored talk on 21 November at Pushkin House, 5a, Bloomsbury Square, London, WC1A 2TA, entitled The theatre of genius: examining the life and work of Professor Elchin Efendiyev. Admission is free, and for more information, e-mail: dparry777@ hotmail.com.
Elchin’s Shakespeare makes English-language début
The English-language translation of Professor Elchin Efendiyev’s absurdist play Shakespeare will receive its première run from 5–9 December at The Horse Hospital, Colonnade, Bloomsbury, London, WC1N 1JD. Set in an Azerbaijani lunatic asylum, just after the regaining of Azerbaijani independence, the delusional patients clearly exhibit greater sanity and sensitivity than the staff. This Dadaist interpretation is the first fully-staged performance to be organised by the Gruntlers’ Theatre Group. Opening night tickets are by invitation only. For more information and to book tickets at £10 (£7 concessions), go to www. thehorsehospital,com. Reduced full-price
Isfar Sarabsky, winner of the piano prize at the Montreux International Jazz Festival 2009 has attracted plaudits from jazz aficionados and politicians alike during two concerts in Berlin, held as part of the 20th anniversary celebrations to commemorate the regaining of Azerbaijani independence. Organised by TEAS Berlin, in collaboration with Jazz Radio Berlin, he performed on consecutive nights alongside Makar Novikov (bass) and Alexander Mashin (drums). On 8 November, the first concert took place at the recentlyopened subterranean Asphalt Club before an appreciative audience of around 150 listeners to Jazz Radio Berlin. Initially, Sabina Rakcheyeva, Member of the European Cultural Parliament and Cultural Advisor, TEAS, explained TEAS’ commitment to raising awareness of Azerbaijan’s unique culture on a pan-European level. Following this, a presenter from the station, Joanna Ratajczak, introduced the musicians. The following night, Isfar’s trio played another concert at The Karlsson in the heart of Berlin, located high above the capital’s rooftops, where the audience comprised around 160 young Bundestag members and other dignitaries. During his introduction, Tale Heydarov, Chairman and Founder, TEAS, spoke about the long tradition of Azerbaijani jazz and its connection with traditional Azerbaijani mugham, which similarly features a high level of improvisation. He also spoke of the longstanding and mutually beneficial Azerbaijani–German bilateral economic and political relationship that has developed during the past two decades. All were captivated by Isfar’s unique fusion of western jazz compositions and jazz-mugham pieces, attracting several encores at both concerts. To see Isfar at his best in a concert from French television, go to http://bit.ly/roZYkF.
Azerbaijani piano master Isfar Sarabsky captivated all those in attendance
FARKHAD KHALILOV – A MEETING WITH THE MASTER
Raining in Mountains (2003), a typically evocative painting by Farkhad Khalilov
Born in Baku in 1946, Farkhad Khalilov remains one of Azerbaijan’s best-known and most renowned artists, not least due to his position as Chair of the Azerbaijani Artists’ Union for the past 24 years. He initially studied at the Azim Azimzade Art School, Baku, following which he spent two years at the Stroganoff College in Moscow, where the Soviet authorities disparaged his work. Farkhad then went on to study at the Moscow Polygraphic Institute, where his innovative approach was accepted and appreciated. His work is notable for its emphasis on Azerbaijani nature, and the last two decades have seen him minimise his palette and drift towards abstraction. TEAS had the great honour of meeting Farkhad during a recent trip to London to attend his inaugural UK exhibition, entitled Acquaintance, held in The Great Room, 1508, London, SW1P 1BB. This was made possible by Farkhad and Tatiana Akmedov, being opened by H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK. You have exhibited in more than 40 countries since 1967, yet your work has not been previously shown in the UK. Why is this? In fact, this is not strictly correct, as some of my works were previously shown in London within some group exhibitions. However, this is certainly my first solo exhibition in London, and I had complete control over how my works were displayed. My paintings
were initially exhibited in Moscow, and eight solo exhibitions of my work have taken place there, to date. Following the regaining of Azerbaijani independence 20 years ago, there was a catastrophe in society and much bloodshed. This was an inappropriate time for the exhibition of artworks, and I focused on dealing with other challenges. However, I continued creating paintings and sketches. The first major exhibition of my work after the regaining of Azerbaijani independence took place in Paris in 2000. What made you decide to exhibit in the UK at this time? I had always been attracted to London, as it is an indicator of the artwork trends that are receiving attention on an international level. It is one of the world’s cultural capitals, and I always aimed to exhibit here. Why is the exhibition Acquaintance? In fact, Acquaintance is entirely accurate translation title. I consider that Meeting appropriate, as the exhibition viewers to ‘meet’ my artwork.
consult with the professional critics. Sir Norman Rosenthal, former Curator of the Royal Academy of Arts, described my work as: “Very strong and expressive”. Other attendees included Anna Somers Cocks, General Editorial Director, The Art Newspaper; Simon de Pury, the Swiss art auctioneer and collector; and Lord Poltimore, Chairman, Sotheby’s Russia and Deputy Chairman of Sotheby’s Europe; and Professor Sarah Wilson, Courtauld Institute of Art. All seemed very impressed. Very often, the critics only visit galleries on the opening night, and at other gala events. However, I have been pleasantly surprised by some of the people who have visited the gallery at other times – yesterday I met some artists from Moscow who have their own gallery and a galleryowner from Zürich who likes my work and specially came to London for the exhibition.
entitled not an of the is more enables
A large-scale opening took place at the gallery on 6 October. What was the reaction to your work? The viewers to whom I spoke seemed to react very well, in my opinion. Unfortunately, I had little time to
When you studied at the Stroganoff College in the 1960s, you were regarded as a radical. Were you actively rebelling against the Soviet régime, or did you simply seek freedom of expression, away from Socialist Realism? I was concerned with art, and not régime change. However, I knew that I didn’t agree with the Soviet system and government from early in my career – I was aware that I perceived the surrounding world in a different way to
the authorities. My art did not confirm to the norms of Socialist Realism, but I know perfectly what I was saying and creating. At this time, I worked with some great masters of art in Moscow, such as Javad Mirjavad and Kamal Ahmad, so I had an excellent artistic education before attending college in Baku. I was already an artist with my own views, and didn’t conform to what the authorities thought I should be at the Stroganoff College. I wished to leave, but my father stressed the importance of finishing my higher education. Following this, I enrolled at the Moscow Polygraphic Institute, where I was very happy, and my fellow students were from across the Soviet Republics. I showed my work to Andrey Goncharov, Institute Director, who appreciated my style and placed no limitations upon it. At the Moscow Polygraphic Institute you had chance to explore contemporary artists of the time. Were there any particular artists or teachers who inspired you? My first artistic hero was Vincent van Gogh, having read Irving Stone’s biography, entitled Lust for Life, at the age of 15 years. Throughout my artworks, I have been searching for van Gogh, who really painted from his heart. Other major influences were Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse and Pablo
(from left) Nicolas Iljine, Global Cultural Asset Management Group; Leyla and Arzu Aliyeva; and Simon de Pury, Chairman, Phillips de Pury & Company, at the London opening of Acquaintance
Picasso. The mid-20th century, when I was born, was a very influential time for art, and Dali, Picasso and Matisse were still active. The influence of Matisse keeps growing in me – I was almost unaware of his work when I started out, but his work has changed my life, and I appreciate all of his periods. I particularly like The Open Window (1905), which is drifting towards abstraction and features black and blue spots. In the 1960s, when I started out, little information was available in the
Soviet Union on foreign art. However, this changed from the early 1970s onwards. I was particularly impressed by the great art of Mark Rothko and Nicolas de Staël. Do you take any inspiration from other arts, such as music, film, or literature? Of course, and I consider music and literature to have the same value and influence on my work as fine art. I listen to a wide range of music, from folksong, through to Ray Charles and Thelonious Monk. However, I do not listen to music all the time whilst painting, although some of my work certainly expresses my emotional response to music. Is there a philosophical or religious element to your work, which seems to glory in the world around us? All art, by definition, is supernatural. Good art is linked with the spirit, with the artist as the creator. Around 3000 years ago, it was said that: “Love is God”, but now: “God is Love” – I prefer the earlier version. Philosophy is very important, conceptually speaking, and some elements of painting are inextricably linked to it. Authors that have affected me include William Faulkner, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Franz Kafka, Albert Camus, Jean-Paul Sartre and, most recently, J.M. Coetzee and Iain Banks. Philosophy and literature helps me to live.
One of the paintings in the Recollection cycle, inspired by a visit to New York
Your work seems very much inspired by nature and natural phenomena. Are your early works, such as In Goradil, a stylised transposition of reality, or are there hidden subtexts? This work was completed in 1966, soon after I moved to Moscow, when I was having problems gaining acceptance of my work at the Stroganoff College.
In Summer on Coast, Khalilov has eliminated all extraneous elements to achieve a purely subjective vision
Artist Farkhad Khalilov is flanked by Nicolas Iljine, Global Cultural Asset Management Group (exhibition organiser) (left) and Nadim Samman (exhibition curator)
Picasso and Cubism influenced us all at this time, although Paul Cézanne, who was the father of Cubism, predominantly inspired me. However, In Goradil does represent a real situation, with few stylistic elements. During the past 25 years or so, your art has gradually drifted towards abstraction. What was the catalyst for this development? In reality, my art started with In Goradil, where I used humble elements to translate my feelings. Since this time, I have gradually discarded the superfluous aspects, and the result is what you see today. All unnecessary detail has been dispensed with. Despite your early challenges with gaining acceptance, you were elected as the Chair of the Azerbaijani Artists’ Union in 1987, near the end of Soviet rule in Azerbaijan. Did you meet any opposition to this? Of course, and certain forces in the Azerbaijan SSR government were strongly against my election for this position. However, I gained the support of the artists, and they made their opinions known. On several occasions, during the final three years of Soviet rule, it was strongly indicated that I should become a Communist Party member, yet I did not succumb. In fact, my appointment was one of
Farkhad Khalilov (centre) discusses his unique interpretation of the natural world with two friends
the earliest manifestations of freedom in the country. My election was solely attributable to the artists’ faith in myself, and I have since aimed to do as much as possible to support Azerbaijani artists on an international level. I was appointed at a transitional and very challenging time for Azerbaijan, and adequately performing my role as Chair of the Union resulted in a reduction in my own artistic output. Did the regaining of Azerbaijani independence have any impact upon your art? The impact is now negligible – we all now live in the same world. Of course, at the time, independence influenced everyone. As everyone is aware, Soviet troops entered Baku on 22 January 1990 and used tanks to crush civilians demanding freedom. It was a very difficult period for all Azerbaijanis. Please tell me something about your working methods. Which paints do you use? Do you draft on the canvas in pencil first, or do you paint freehand? I initially use a sketchbook to draft and paint my ideas, but I take all my inspiration from nature. The colours of nature are extremely important to me, and I usually paint directly on the canvas. However, an idea can be developing inside me for 30 years, being eventually manifested on the
canvas when the time is right. The most important aspect is the concept, not the form, and I feel van Gogh’s imperative to express myself. I understand that some paintings are worked on in your studio for one, two or even three decades. Why is this? What stage must they reach before you are satisfied with your own work? It is true that the earliest paintings comprising the Meeting cycle date from 1983, whereas the latest artworks date from 2008. Some concepts and forms take a long time to evolve within the artist before they are ready to be expressed. There are many influences on the artist, and these alter perception and conception. How do you see your work further developing? I would like to return to New York, where I was inspired to paint some of the paintings comprising the Recollection cycle. Although I have frequently visited Paris, it would be great to paint there again.
For more information on Farkhad Khalilov’s work, go to www.farhadkhalilov.com
promote understanding amongst the peoples of the region. The Co-Chairs plan to revisit the region at the end of November to further develop proposals on these issues and discuss continuation of the negotiation process.
UNESCO discusses Armenian destruction of Azerbaijani monuments Azerbaijani sources have tipped French President Sarkozy as a new arbiter in the ongoing Azerbaijani–Armenian dispute
All change on the Karabakh front?
Azerbaijani sources have predicted that the next meeting between Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan may take place under the mediation of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sources claim that the proposal was made during the French leader’s recent visit to the region, and that it had been discussed and approved by the Russian and US Presidents.
OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ report published
The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs – Ambassadors Bernard Fassier (France); Robert Bradtke (US); and Igor Popov (Russian Federation), together with Andrzej Kasprzyk, Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairpersonin-Office – have presented their annual report to the Permanent Council of the OSCE, preceding the forthcoming OSCE Ministerial Council Meeting in Vilnius.
According to an OSCE press release, the Co-Chairs noted that they visited the region eight times during the past year, holding 14 separate meetings in various locations with Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan. The Co-Chairs also crossed the ‘contact line’ by foot four times in the past 14 months, thereby demonstrating that the line is not a permanent barrier between the peoples of the region, and that military co-ordination regarding ceasefire implementation is possible, when all the sides are willing. Highlighting the continued engagement of their three governments, the CoChairs reiterated that there would be no military solution. They stressed that political will by all sides is essential to ensure that the necessary difficult decisions are made, and that the sides can move beyond the unacceptable status quo and achieve peace. The Co-Chairs also described the additional efforts being implemented to foster an atmosphere that would be conducive to negotiations; strengthen implementation of the ceasefire; and
Eleonora Huseynova, Azerbaijani Permanent Representative to UNESCO, has drawn attention to the ongoing Armenian occupation of Azerbaijani territory at the 36th session of the UNESCO General Conference in Paris. She explained that this occupation has resulted in the destruction of many historical and cultural monuments across Azerbaijan. Huseynova revealed that nine centralised library systems, comprising 927 libraries and 4.6m books, had been plundered and destroyed in Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions. The occupied territories also housed some 22 museums, which contained over 100,000 exhibits; 808 clubs; four theatres; two concert halls; eight amusement parks; four art galleries; and 85 music schools.
NEWS IN BRIEF The Great Wall of NagornoKarabakh? Azerbaijan’s ANS Press has reported that a wall is under construction along the ‘contact line’. The stone structure will stretch for almost 3km in the Terter District in order to “protect the residents of Azerbaijani villages from Armenian bullets.” Azerbaijani Lieutenant slain by sniper fire Captain Teymur Abdullayev, Spokesman, Azerbaijani Defence Ministry, has revealed that 25-yearold Lieutenant Emin Elmar Aliyev was killed by Armenian sniper fire on 2 November near the Kuropatkino village of the Khojavend region.
OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs (from left) Igor Popov (Russian Federation); Robert Bradtke (US); and Bernard Fassier (France) reiterated the need for a negotiated solution
The Lieutenant was a nephew of Major-General Lankaran Aliyev, who commented: “Emin defended his soldiers and was killed by an enemy sniper. We are proud of his sacrifice.”
World Bank project to improve IDP conditions
Due to a World Bank-financed project, around 185,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Azerbaijan will gain enhanced access to infrastructure, services, housing conditions and employment opportunities. The move follows an approval by the World Bank’s Board of Directors for a $50m (£31.1m) International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD) loan, aimed at benefiting the Azerbaijani IDP’s Living Conditions and Livelihoods Project. Including the $28.5m (£17.7m) Government contribution, total project financing is expected to reach $78.5m (£48.8m). The World Bank recognised that Azerbaijan continues to have one of the highest concentrations of IDPs per capita in the world. Currently, seven per cent of its population remains displaced, due to the Armenian occupation of NagornoKarabakh and the seven surrounding territories. Around half of these IDPs continue to live in unacceptable conditions. Joanna De Berry, head of the World Bank team that prepared the report, commented: “Recent research and analysis by the World Bank and Azerbaijani Government indicates that, despite much investment, IDPs still remain vulnerable; are more likely to experience poverty than nonIDPs; have worse living conditions; and lower employment rates than the nondisplaced. They also rely heavily on state transfers as their main income source. The project is designed to respond to these challenges and to complement the existing state-funded programmes for IDP housing provision. The project draws on experience gained from the World Bank Programme on Forced Displacement and from supporting the livelihoods of the rural
poor across the world.” The new project will build on the successful implementation of past World Bank-funded IDP support projects, under which more than 400 microprojects were implemented, benefiting over 120,000 IDPs across Azerbaijan. This will expand community microprojects, whilst strengthening the focus on improving the living conditions of those IDPs continuing to reside in public buildings and providing sustainable job opportunities to enhance their independence. Asad Alam, Director, South Caucasus, World Bank, outlined: “The Azerbaijani Government and the World Bank are undertaking a 12-year partnership to promote IDP development in the country. The success of this partnership is attributable to the high level of commitment demonstrated by the Azerbaijani Government towards addressing IDP requirements.” The project objectives include:
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investment in small infrastructure and services microprojects that IDP communities identify as their priorities. An estimated 200 microprojects will benefit 120,000–150,000 persons. rehabilitation of up to 95 collective centres, thus improving the housing conditions of about 30,000 persons. vocational training and grants for around 1,400 young people to facilitate establishment of their own businesses. training and resources for around 200 community groups to finance the launch of small enterprises. As part of the income-generating activities, approximately 1500 micro-credits will be extended to IDPs to start up or expand their businesses.
Since joining the World Bank in 1992, Azerbaijan has received approximately $2.9bn (£1.8bn) across 43 projects.
Sabine Freizer, Director, Europe Programme, International Crisis Group (ICG), has dismissed any chance of achieving resolution of the NagornoKarabakh conflict for the next two years. During a press conference in Istanbul, she explained: “The situation will continue because elections are scheduled to take place in the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries – the US, Russia and France. Following this, elections will be held in Azerbaijan and Armenia.” Freizer went on to explain that negotiations always slow on the eve of elections: “The world community, including the Co-Chairs, pinned great hopes on the Kazan meeting. Unfortunately, the summit yielded no result.” However, she expressed the view that if high-level meetings are not organised, then contact through the civil societies in both countries remains a necessity.
Potential meeting between Azerbaijani and Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh communities
Rabiyyat Aslanova, Head, Human Rights Committee, Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) has revealed that the Azerbaijani and Armenian communities of Nagorno-Karabakh may meet in Khankandi, provided that security is ensured. The statement came in the wake of an initiative from Bahar Muradova, Vice-Speaker, Milli Majlis, to organise such a meeting. In turn, the unrecognised Armenian leadership in Nagorno-Karabakh replied that Khankandi could be the venue for this. In the first instance, Aslanova reiterated that Khankandi remains Azerbaijani sovereign territory. She explained: “There is a need for this meeting. In any case, regardless of the placename used, there is a great need for a meeting between the two communities. We should also listen to the opposite side – the Armenians living in NagornoKarabakh, which is Azerbaijani land. They still hold Azerbaijani citizenship. Today, some Armenians even dream of dual citizenship.” Aslanova continued: “We think about tomorrow, and believe that the NagornoKarabakh issue will be solved peacefully. We are ready to reconstruct buildings and conduct mine clearance in these areas.”
P h o t o : F l i c k r – E x p at L i f e
The World Bank project is aimed at improving the livelihoods of IDPs across Azerbaijan
ICG dismisses conflict resolution hopes for two years
P h o t o s : Fo v e a Pi c t u r e s
Israfil Mammadov, Chief Investment Officer, State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan, emphasised the opportunities for Western banks
Azerbaijani financial opportunities brought to the City of London
More than 150 investment bankers, investment specialists, lawyers, consultants, analysts and journalists descended on the UK Headquarters of Baker & McKenzie in the City of London on 7 November to learn of the exciting opportunities presented by the nascent Azerbaijani financial sector. Entitled Azerbaijan’s untapped opportunitues: what financial institutions need to know, the conference was organised by TEAS and Baker & McKenzie CIS Ltd. Lord Laird, Chairman, TEAS Advisory Board, commented: “Azerbaijan is a westward-facing country, and many of the young people in the financial sector are western-educated. They are taking the lead from the UK and other western countries, and this is resulting in the rapid development of Azerbaijan. The UK and Azerbaijan have particularly strong links, and the UK remains the greatest foreign domestic investment (FDI) contributor to the country.” Dan Matthews, Partner, Baker & McKenzie CIS Ltd., stated: “The Azerbaijani economy is driven by oil and gas, and the GDP has continued to expand, despite the global financial crisis. Total has recently made further discoveries in the Caspian, and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR) is planning an independent refining complex. The economy will remain buoyant, and Azerbaijan is looking outward. It is particularly looking to the West regarding development of the financial sector. It has small external debt, but its banking sector remains underdeveloped. The cost of finance remains high, and it urgently needs external finance.” In the first session, focusing on the Banking Sector, Fuad Huseynli, Managing Director and Deputy Head of Communications, VTB Capital (London) continued: “There is a great urge to diversify away from the hydrocarbon sphere, and such projects as
the development of railway infrastructure are now being planned. In addition, SOCAR is now planning a bond issue for the end of the year. Azerbaijan welcomes the West, and projects in the country require substantial overseas finance.” Israfil Mammadov, Chief Investment Officer, State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ), explained: “SOFAZ operates a sovereign wealth fund, aimed at investing revenues from finite hydrocarbon resources to ensure sustainable economic development. Investments must be made outside of Azerbaijan, and this provides opportunities for Western banks.” The second session, on Capital Markets, highlighted some of the areas of development. Emin Muradov, Head of the Research and Market Development Department, State Committee for Securities explained: “There is a great need for a bond market in Azerbaijan. Securities are particularly required to finance infrastructure projects and to facilitate the expansion of small- to mediumsized enterprises (SMEs).” Taco Sieburgh Sjoerdsma, CFA–CFO, Sturgeon Capital, based his observations on his 15 years’ experience in Baku, stating: “It is necessary to develop the capital market through longterm bank deposits, and to implement the legislation that supports capitalisation.” The final session, on International Financial Institutions (IFIs) as strategic investors in Azerbaijan, began with some observations from Christopher Falco, Senior Banker, Financial Institutions, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Speaking on the basis of his 18 months in Baku, Falco explained: “Azerbaijan is an early transition country, and we have implemented an investment banking programme. It is necessary for Western financial institutions to be present to ensure the systems develop and operate in the preferred manner.” He also revealed that the Azerbaijan EBRD Transition Report 2011 will be released on 15 November. A similar approach was recommended by Uzma Khalil, Financial Sector Specialist, Private and Financial Sector Development
Europe and Central Asia Region, the World Bank, who explained: “The World Bank is working closely with the State Committee for Securities, and finalising a strong regulatory framework, particularly regarding supervisory methodologies. More large banks and increased competition in the sector are a necessity, and we are working to implement the State Programme on Development of the Capital Market.” Following an animated question-andanswer session, all those in attendance acknowledged the importance of the event at this pivotal time in the evolution of the Azerbaijani banking sector.
Dan Matthews, Partner, Baker & McKenzie CIS Ltd., succinctly explained the current state of the Azerbaijani financial sector
The interested attendees took advantage of the networking opportunities
IMF makes its assessment
An International Monetary Fund (IMF) mission visited Baku from 20 October–2 November to conduct Article IV consultation discussions, held under the Articles of Agreement. Meetings were held with Artur Rasizade, Azerbaijani Prime Minister; Samir Sharifov, Azerbaijani Finance Minister; Elman Rustamov, Governer, Central Bank of Azerbaijan (CBA) and other senior officials, representatives of the private sector, civil society, and the diplomatic community. Following the discussions, Nadeem Ilahi, Deputy Director: Middle-East and Central Asia Dept., International Monetary Fund (IMF), commented: “Azerbaijan has experienced rapid economic growth, macroeconomic stability and significant poverty reduction since the onset of the ongoing oil boom. This year, nonhydrocarbon economic growth is anticipated at nearly 9 per cent, whereas this amounted to only 7 per cent last year, and it could reach 6 per cent in 2012, supported by public spending. Inflation has moderated recently as global food price increases have eased, and is projected at around 8 per cent by the end of 2011.”
Nadeem Ilahi, Deputy Director: MiddleEast and Central Asia Dept., International Monetary Fund (IMF) has revealed that the IMF and World Bank will reevaluate the Azerbaijani financial sector within the Financial Sector Assessment Programme (FSAP) during the second half of 2012. Whilst speaking at a press conference, Ilahi stated: “The Azerbaijani Government has appealed to the IMF to conduct an assessment within the FSAP. The preparations for the assessment will begin early next year, and we assume that the re-evaluation will be conducted in the second half of 2012.” The IMF and World Bank conducted the first evaluation within this programme in 2003. Following this, legislation regarding banking was adopted to eliminate deficiencies identified during the FSAP. The experts conducted stress tests within the Azerbaijani financial sector assessment programme, establishing that the banking system was relatively resistant to risk.
Taner Yildiz, Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister played an essential role in determining the details of the gas deal
Azerbaijan and Turkey strike gas price deal
Azerbaijan and Turkey have reached an agreement on gas prices, which will remain unchanged until 2018, although the price remains undisclosed. Taner Yildiz, Turkish Energy and Natural Resources Minister, made the comments in a report in the Aksam newspaper. The price particularly relates to Azerbaijani gas for Turkey from Shah Deniz I. In late October, Azerbaijan and Turkey signed a package of gas contracts that specify the price of Azerbaijani gas for Turkey from the Shah Deniz 2 project; the volume of gas supplies to Turkey from the field after 2017; and an agreement for Azerbaijani gas transportation through Turkey. The gas reserves of the Shah Deniz field are estimated at 1.2tn m3 (tcm).
Iltimas Mammadov, Deputy Azerbaijani Communications and IT Minister, revealed the essential role of Azerbaijan in EPEG development
New SOFAZ investment policy determined
According to Shahmar Movsumov, Executive Director, State Oil Fund of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOFAZ), a new investment policy is being prepared for 2012 that will reflect changes to the rules of storage, placement and management of its foreign currency reserves. Following their completion, the policy will be presented to the SOFAZ Supervisory Board and Azerbaijani President Aliyev. Such changes are being made for the first time in a decade, and indicate that SOFAZ is following a conservative policy, with potential investments particularly focusing on stocks, real estate and gold. It is anticipated that the list of countries in which the assets can be placed will be extended to include Turkey and Russia. Established in 1999, SOFAZ’s assets now amount to $32bn (£19.9bn). Its funds may be used for the construction and reconstruction of strategically important infrastructure facilities, together with solving national problems. It is currently financing several important irrigation and transportation projects.
Azerbaijan to participate in EPEG
The third meeting of the Europe–Persia Express Gateway (EPEG) has taken place in Baku. Iltimas Mammadov, Deputy Azerbaijani Communications and IT Minister, commented: “The project will be launched in May 2012, and Azerbaijani companies will
He continued: “The international traffic transit will necessitate use of the fibreoptic Trans–Asia–Europe (TAE) cable, thereby increasing the influence of our country and local companies. Work on the Azerbaijani segment of this will be concluded at the end of 2011.” According to Mammadov, Azerbaijan was selected because traversing its territory represents the shortest route, using a stable fibre-optic network, and meets international standards. Mammadov explained: “This project will complement the Trans-Eurasian Information Super Highway (TASIM). Delta Telecom is the principal project implementation partner, and the EPEG project has a capacity of 540 gigabytes per second (gbps).”
NEWS IN BRIEF BP invests $33bn in Azerbaijani energy projects Ian Sutherland, Chief Financial Officer, BP, has revealed that BP has invested $33bn (£20.5bn), to date, in the Shah Deniz and Azeri– Chirag–Guneshli (ACG) oil projects; Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and South Caucasus gas pipeline. The statements were made during a conference in Baku entitled The Place and Role of SOFAZ in Azerbaijan’s National Oil Strategy. Sutherland stated that 1.8bn barrels of oil had been produced from the ACG fields since the project launch and 26bn m 3 of gas had been extracted from the Shah Deniz project. US welcomes new Azerbaijani– Turkish transit agreement Hillary Clinton, US Secretary-ofState, has welcomed the signing of energy agreements between Azerbaijan and Turkey. During a speech on US–Turkish relations in Washington D.C., she commented: “I applaud the recent signing of a very important energy agreement by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. We are exploring the methods by which the US can assist Turkey in taking advantage of advanced bond and capital markets in a way that would have been impossible only five years ago.”
participate in the transit of international traffic from Frankfurt to Oman. Both the primary and secondary fibre-optic lines laid within the project will run through Azerbaijan, and the project is of great significance to our country.”
IMF and World Bank to re-evaluate Azerbaijani financial sector
EVANS RANDALL What is the size of your company? Evans Randall has a lean management structure of 12 seasoned professionals, each of whom hold many years of real estate experience.
Founded in 1993, Evans Randall is a private company that focuses on investing in prime commercial real estate in Western Europe (particularly in the UK) and Russia. It acquires property let to blue chip tenants on long leases, and holds a portfolio that totals £4–5bn, including such iconic London buildings as the Swiss Re Tower (Gherkin); Man Group HQ; Bank of America Building; and BlackRock Building. Evans Randall works with both private and institutional partners, who are invited to co-invest in these transactions. Evans Randall is exploring possibilities with the Azerbaijani investment community towards finding mutually beneficial opportunities. It would like to meet individuals and institutions interested in co-investing regarding London real estate and working on selected, high-quality investments. Evans Randall’s reputation ensures reliability for both sellers and partners in securing unique properties in an extremely competitive environment. TEAS spoke to Henry Dallal, Executive Director, Evans Randall, to find out more:
What are the special strengths of Evans Randall? The company specialises in transactions typically in the range of $100–500m (£62–311m). To date, it has arranged and/or invested in approximately $35bn (£21.8bn) of transactions around the world. Evans Randall is acknowledged for its swift decision-making and execution, and for delivering on its commitments. In a typical transaction, it participates with its investors over a 5–7 year period, and actively manages the financing and investment structure to maximise value. The company remained active throughout the recent economic downturn of 2009–10, with assets acquired and sold exceeding $1bn (£622m). With excellent quality assets and yields, Evans Randall is eager to work with investors to form long-term relationships that are essential to the development of its business model. The company is experiencing a unique period, as the value of prime commercial property
Henry Dallal, Executive Director, Evans Randall
has dropped substantially. Due to the collapse of Sterling, the US$based partners can enjoy substantially attractive investments when such opportunities arise.
Evans Randall plc., Queensberry House, 3, Old Burlington Street, London W1S 3AE, UK Tel: +44 (0)20 7072 2200; website: www.evansrandall.com
What is your company’s specialisation? Evans Randall has acquired some of the most lucrative income-generating property in London and Western Europe, typically with tenants who are rated AA– or above by Standard & Poors. It has achieved this by underwriting the equity in the transactions. This approach ensures that agreements are completed quickly and effectively, providing reliability for vendors and achieving a substantial competitive edge. This has given the company an excellent reputation, and the March 2008 issue of EG Capital magazine referred to Evans Randall as the “King of Prime Properties”. The company concentrates on underrented properties on very long leases (12–30 years) with strong tenants and predictable cash flows. It targets assets and tenants considered to be the ‘best of the best’, and sources long-term financing to match the term of the lease. With such tenants such as the Financial Services Authority (FSA), Swiss Re, Black Rock, Credit Suisse, Commerzbank, the European Commission, ING, Deutsche Telekom and the UK Government, it is very unlikely that the company will suffer rental defaults.
The Evans Randall portfolio includes London’s iconic Gherkin
Ph o t o : D a n C l a r k
inner back page AZERBAIJAN: QUICK FACTS Official name: The Republic of Azerbaijan Capital: Baku Area: 86,600km2 Population: 9,000,000 Density: 104 inhab./km2 Urban population: 51.8 per cent Population of main cities excluding suburbs: Baku (2,500,000); Gandja (300,000); Sumgait (270,000); Mingacevir (95,000) Religions: Shiite Muslims (65 per cent), Sunni Muslims (28 per cent), Orthodox Christians (5 per cent), Others (2 per cent) Principal exports: Oil, gas, aluminium, carpets Official language: Azerbaijani Business languages: English and Russian
Average annual exchange rate for US$1
Exchange rates as of 12.11.11: AZN1=US$1.27; US$1=AZN0.79; AZN1=£0.79; £1=AZN1.26; AZN1=€0.93; €1=AZN1.08
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