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(Photo: Neale Atkinson)

Culture | Public Affairs Business | Philanthropy

KHOJALY VICTIMS REMEMBERED ACROSS EUROPE Also in this issue: Religious tolerance debated in London Ambassador Siddiq outlines the path for future development Caspian Corridor Conference focuses on Azerbaijan Formula 1 – coming to Baku Kinan Azmeh – musical communicator

Please see inside for how to win £100 of Amazon vouchers

3 / 2014 March 2014

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Welcome to the TEAS Magazine The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS) is a UK-registered pan-European organisation dedicated to raising awareness of Azerbaijan and fostering closer economic, political and cultural links between that country and the nations of Europe. As well as promoting the positive aspects of Azerbaijan, TEAS also highlights the plight of the 875,000 refugees and Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) within the country. These people are unable to return to their homes and lands because of the illegal occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding districts by Armenia’s armed forces – in defiance of four UN Security Council resolutions. TEAS has three main facets to its operations: • Culture – TEAS raises awareness of Azerbaijan’s rich and vibrant culture to a worldwide audience by organising cultural events and operating as a networking centre. • Business – TEAS supports its membership of European and Azerbaijani businesses. It provides a platform for organisations to establish links and strengthen their existing business relationships via a programme of networking opportunities across the regions. • Public Affairs – TEAS works to increase awareness about Azerbaijan amongst key opinionformers, key decision-makers and other political, academic and civil society stakeholders. In pursuit of its objectives TEAS: • Organises meetings with interested parties, opinion-formers and decision-makers • Arranges roundtables, seminars, lectures and conferences • Publishes pamphlets, reports, bulletins, books and produces films • Facilitates fact-finding trips by politicians and business people.

Mailing List

TEAS is always bringing the latest news, views and interviews from Azerbaijan. Sign up to our mailing-list to receive the latest information straight to your inbox:


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Membership and Sponsorship

TEAS offers a range of corporate and individual membership packages, providing such benefits as advertising, trade missions, networking, business sector advice and hotel discounts. TEAS also offers numerous sponsorship opportunities throughout the year for its events and conferences. To find out more, e-mail:

Win £100 of Amazon vouchers!

Congratulations to Tofig Huseynzade who won the February 2014 competition! To win £100 of Amazon vouchers, simply answer the following 10 questions, the answers to which will be found in this issue of the TEAS Magazine. In the case of a tie, a draw will be made. The winning entrant will have their name and photo featured in the April 2014 issue. Please send all entries to by 11 April: 1. Where did the Khojaly Commemoration Concert in Paris take place? 2. Who was the clarinettist in the chamber version of Pierre Thilloy’s Khojaly 613? 3. Who is the Deputy Head of the Georgian Jews in Baku? 4. How many seats will be in the main European Olympics stadium in Baku? 5. Who will represent Azerbaijan in the Eurovision Song Contest 2014? 6. Which Canadian company is supplying bomb disposal robots to the Azerbaijani army? 7. In which town was artist Sayyar Aliyev born? 8. Which Turkish company is negotiating to purchase Total’s shares in the Shah Deniz II project? 9. Where did the second Caspian Corridor Conference take place? 10. Who was the conductor of the Caspian Corridor Gala?

Upcoming Events For full details of all TEAS events, go to

23 March Central Asian Spring Festival (Novruz) 2014 UCL Main Quadrant, Gower Street, London, WC1E 6BT 12.00–17.00hrs. Purchase tickets at (specify where ticket proceeds should be donated) TEAS is proud to sponsor the UCL Central Asian Spring Festival (Novruz), expected to attract an audience of 1500 – making it the biggest festival of its kind in the UK. During this event, student societies from six countries are uniting to celebrate this occasion. Attendees will be able to experience the rich traditions, cuisines and cultures of Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tatarstan (Russian Federation). Tickets cover two portions of food, soft drinks, an exhibition and a show presented by all societies. All proceeds are traditionally donated towards charity causes in respective Central Asian countries. 16 May Isfar Sarabski: Festival Jazz à Saint-Germain-des-Prés Paris Maison des Cultures du Monde, 101, Boulevard Raspail, 75006, Paris 20.30hrs. Purchase tickets at Following their acclaimed concert at the Duc des Lombards club in December, the Isfar Sarabski Trio is set to make a triumphant return to Paris as a part of the famous Festival Jazz à Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Performing a mix of standards and original compositions, this TEAS-supported concert is not to be missed.

March 2014

Politics and News


Nazrin Rashidova took centre-stage in both Paris and London

TEAS remembers the Khojaly Tragedy across Europe

Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS

From the TEAS Director

Events in the Ukraine have sent a shiver through many countries of the former Soviet Union. They have, however, also served to underline the importance of Azerbaijan in terms of providing energy supplies via the planned Southern Gas Corridor. It is also reassuring to hear Western politicians – including President Obama – lining up to emphasise the importance of territorial integrity. This message is central to Azerbaijan’s campaign to resume control over its occupied territories in and around Nagorno-Karabakh. One grim anniversary commemorated in February was the massacre of 613 men, women and children at Khojaly on 26 February 1992. I was privileged to attend all three TEAS cultural events – in London, Paris and Istanbul – to mark the day. TEAS also hosted a conference on Religions in the Caucasus in London during early March. The Dean of St Paul’s Cathedral opened the event, which was attended by academics and theologians from throughout the region. May I finally wish you all a very happy Novruz. Spring is a time of hope and renewal, after a winter that, this year, has been dark and stormy, both literally and metaphorically. Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS

Three TEAS offices – in Paris, London and Istanbul – have organised commemorations of the Khojaly Massacre, which occurred on 26 February 1992. This was the worst single incident of the Armenian–Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, and claimed the lives of 613 civilians. The first TEAS commemoration took place in Paris on 24 February, when around 260 diplomats, friends of Azerbaijan and music-lovers listened to a concert in the historic 18th century Église SaintRoch. This featured a rich and vibrant programme of Azerbaijani and European classical music. Prior to the concert, Eliza Pieter, Head, TEAS France, said: “This is the saddest episode in the young history of independent Azerbaijan. We cannot forget the victims who died. There needs to be future reconciliation between the two nations. It is one of the most difficult chapters to accept. When remembering this event, no-one should have a selective memory. We need to remember, so that Armenians and Azerbaijanis can live together in peace. “The people need to understand each other. I hope that, one day, Azerbaijanis and Armenians will commemorate this tragic event side-by-side.” After a minute of silence in memory of the Khojaly victims, the opening work was the world premiére of the chamber version of the powerful and elegiac Khojaly 613, performed by Azerbaijani violinist Sabina Rakcheyeva, Syrian clarinettist Kinan Azmeh and The Solstice String Quartet. Composed by French composer

Pierre Thilloy as a TEAS orchestral version was year and subsequently the prestigious Victoires Classique award.

commission, the premiéred last shortlisted for de la Musique

The performance attracted critical acclaim from Elisabeth Schneiter, who wrote on the leading French classical music website ResMusica: “An expressive, moving, deep, melodious and evocative piece of music, Pierre Thilloy’s work goes beyond the event which inspired it and carries within itself the universality of evil, the disbelief at such horror, and a particular form of hope, like that of true visionaries. A visionary of hearing, Pierre Thilloy sweeps us up into the eye of a bird, or into a black drone above the universal theatre of absurd wars. Five nagging musical notes express either an appearance or extinction. There are colours in the sky, screeching flames and an acceleration, disorder, an army on the march, advancing inexorably.” The UK-resident Azerbaijani violinist Nazrin Rashidova and her all-female FeMusa Ensemble went on to headline the concert. The programme included the French premiére of the third movement from the contemporary Azerbaijani composer Agshin Alizade’s fourth symphony entitled alla ‘Mugham’. Composed 30 years ago, this combines contemporary atonal composition with elements emulating the sound of mugham singers, including a wordless passage for the human voice. The fact that scores of French riot police had to be deployed in the light of threats by militant members of the Armenian

March 2014


Politics and News Nazrin and her all-female FeMusa Ensemble headlined both concerts

diaspora only added to the solemnity of the occasion.

I thank TEAS for organising this Khojaly commemoration evening.”

The following night, the Turkish office of TEAS organised a moving tribute in Ortakoy Square, Istanbul, which has historically been amongst the most cosmopolitan areas of Istanbul, with Islamic, Jewish, Orthodox and other Christian places of worship coexisting in a spirit of harmony. After a minute’s silence, the commemoration evening, attended by around 400 people, culminated in a simple, yet poignant act. Altogether, 613 special light balloons were simultaneously released by Istanbul residents into the night sky over the Bosphorus – one for every man, woman and child killed in the tragedy.

Khojaly survivor Khazangul Amirova, who lost both her parents and sister, told her personal story in a very moving testimony. Reducing many audience members to tears, she recalled: “Armenians killed my mother that night. When they surrounded us, they took us as captives and brought us to Askaran. They continued to fire on us as we walked, despite there being many children and women amongst our crowd. One of the bullets hit my five-yearold sister, who I held in my arms as she fell. I wanted to raise her, but she was dead. The Armenians tied down my father. They brought me to him and I saw as they poured kerosene on him and burned him alive before my very eyes. Even though it is with great pain I speak tonight, it is important that I share this with you.”

In a moving ceremony, 613 balloons – one for each civilian killed in the Khojaly Massacre – were released over the Bosphorus

Rena Rzaeva, Istanbul Representative, TEAS said: “Khojaly is a painful memory in Azerbaijan’s history. Although we cannot travel back in time and undo the injustice that was caused, it is our duty to remember this. It was not just Azerbaijani land that was lost during that tragic night – it was homes, childhood memories and people’s hopes. Altogether 63 children, 106 women and 444 men lost their lives. These are not just numbers – these are people. They are mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, and dearly loved ones. All those who died left behind family members and close friends who still carry these emotional scars. For them and the Azerbaijani nation, the nightmare of Khojaly will stay in their hearts and minds forever.” Defne Sarisoy, Turkish TV personality and presenter, added: “Khojaly, the second largest city in Nagorno-Karabakh, witnessed the most brutal massacre in Azerbaijani history. This Khojaly commemoration event is not just for Azerbaijan, it is for the whole Turkish community, who share this heartbreak. May

March 2014

The event included live traditional music from the Natig Rhythm Group. There was also a digital exhibition of photos and a video cinema screened footage of Khojaly and personal testimonies from Khojaly survivors. Security precautions proved unnecessary for the UK commemoration concert on 26 February at St. John’s, Smith Square, London, in the shadow of Westminster. The musicians remained the same as in Paris, and the audience took their seats to the evocative Benedictus, by William LloydWebber, performed from the organ loft as a duet between Nazrin Rashidova and organist Jeremy Cooke.

Khojaly survivor Khazangul Amirova gave a moving personal testimony at the Istanbul commemoration

Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS said: “Last night I was at the TEAS Khojaly commemoration event in Istanbul, and we heard an eyewitness account from

a Khojaly survivor. She lost her mother, father, and sister. She is not a politician or journalist, and she described the events of that night in her own words, moving many audience members to tears.” He then asked all audience members to hold aloft a shirt emblazoned with the words ‘Khojaly 613’ to demonstrate their solidarity with the massacre victims and survivors. Lionel continued: “We need to ensure this kind of action never happens again. This is a concert for peace.” H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, recalled: “This is a special day, commemorating a black page in the history of Azerbaijan. The occurrences of 22 years ago were more than just a massacre. Any war has its rules, and there are international conventions on how to conduct a war. The killing of civilian people flouts these, and the civilians in Khojaly were brutally murdered.”

Sabina Rakcheyeva (violin), Kinan Azmeh and The Solstice String Quartet premiéred the chamber version of Khojaly 613 in Paris

Christopher Pincher MP, Member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, and Chairman, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Azerbaijan, said: “During my visits to Azerbaijan, I have become aware of the dreadful psychological scar that Khojaly has left upon the minds of the Azerbaijani people. “On that night 22 years ago, 613 people, including the elderly, women and children, were brutally murdered. A further 487 people were injured, some of which were horribly maimed. This is a stain upon civilised society. I hope all those present tonight will lobby our government to play its full and proper part in encouraging peace and justice in Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Politics and News


Caucasian religions conference highlights Azerbaijan’s tolerance

Albania, the first Christian nation in the Caucasus, was the focus of several papers. Professor Dr Farida Mammadova, ANAS, commented: “The first Episcopal church in the Caucasus was in Caucasian Albania. It had ordained clergy, and 12 dioceses, three of which were in Karabakh, which is currently occupied by Armenia. Several sources speak of this territory.” She went on discuss the movement of Armenians from modern-day Anatolia and outlined how the Armenians systematically subsumed the Caucasian Albanian identity, altered its monuments and destroyed or hid Caucasian Albanian manuscripts, replacing them with those in the Armenian language.

The Very Reverend Dr David Ison, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, opened the conference

More than 50 theologians, historians, academics and researchers gathered at the Hallam Conference Centre in London for the Religions in the Caucasus conference, organised by TEAS on 3–4 March. The event featured 18 academic papers presented by experts from Poland, France, Germany and Georgia, amongst other countries. Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS, prefaced the event saying: “The Caucasus sits at the crossroads of some of the world’s great empires and religions. In all my travels, I have never encountered a country like Azerbaijan, where the world’s great faiths – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – sit so comfortably together. This is why I am so proud to tell the country’s remarkable story to the world.” The Very Reverend Dr David Ison, Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, commented: “Your conference is very important and timely. The globalisation process has led to a loss of identity, and a closer definition in ways that are more exclusive. Religion is often used as a means to discriminate and divide, even though its intention is not to do so. The name of God is often appropriated to support a particular perspective as a means of power and control, but the great world religions are universal in their scope. “Faiths should be kind and generous. We all know such places as Azerbaijan, where people live alongside each other in peace and harmony. All people should listen to each other and explore the similarities of their faiths. Faith has a vision for the way in which the world can be transformed and become a place of peace and joy for all. Children from any community

are our future, and the world belongs to them. We are working for the good of our grandchildren and beyond.” Many of the papers demonstrated the longstanding polyconfessional nature of Azerbaijan. Dr Goshgar Koshgarly, Head, Dept. of Archaeological Services, Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences (ANAS) said: “Azerbaijan has a unique culture, and has always been an interethnic country.” Supporting evidence was provided by the many burial techniques unearthed during archaeological digs across Azerbaijan. Farda Asadov, Head, Dept. of History and Economy of Arab Countries, ANAS and Vice-Rector of Khazar University said: “Khazar Jews were the first Jews in the Caucasus, and were always treated hospitably.” Moisey Bekker, Scientific Researcher, ANAS and Deputy Head of Georgian Jews in Baku said: “Ashkenazy, Sephardic and Mountain Jews were and are present in Azerbaijan, and have always been well-treated. They participated in the first oil boom of the late 19th century, and many became lawyers, doctors and pharmacists. Schools were built, where Hebrew was taught, there were Jews in the Milli Majlis (Azerbaijani Parliament) from 1918–20, and they were always accepted as full Azerbaijani citizens.” He concluded with a quote from Heydar Aliyev, former President of Azerbaijan, that summed up the Azerbaijani stance saying: “There never has been, or will be, anti-Semitism in my country. This is unshakeable.” The





A valuable insight into the recent archaeological discoveries that have augmented the small canon of Caucasian Albanian literature was delivered by Professor Dr. Jost Gippert, Institute for Empirical Languages, University of Frankfurt. He has recently deciphered the Caucasian Albanian alphabet, enabling him to read religious inscriptions on monuments and gravestones in the region. Dr Bernard Outtier, Honorary Member of the National Academy of Sciences of Georgia, said: “We have 1000 words in Caucasian Albania, and this can compared to modern-day Udi, spoken by the Christian Udin community in the Gabala region of Azerbaijan. Much work has been done to keep the Udi language alive, unlike Caucasian Albanian, which disappeared due to the influence of Armenia.” A similar theory was explained by Robert Mobili, Baku State University and Chairman of the Albanian-Udin Community, who commented: “Caucasian Albanians lived in the Greater Caucasus in Azerbaijan and Dagestan from the 2nd–3rd Century A.D. Their monuments incorporated many Christian symbols. They were challenged by the influence of Islam in the region, but the two religions peacefully coexisted. The Caucasian Albanians developed their own system of self-government. However, the Armenians appropriated or destroyed their churches. Interest in Caucasian Albania has only been reasserted since the regaining of Azerbaijani independence in 1991, and churches have been reconstructed.” Further sessions focused on the further development of Christianity across the Caucasus, the impact of Islam, the ancient origins of the Zoroastrian faith, missionary work and demographics in the 19th and 20th centuries, and some of the challenges faced by religions. TEAS is to publish the proceedings in the near future.

March 2014


Politics and News

Ecclestone – F1 to come

Bernie Ecclestone has unveiled plans to bring Formula One to Baku

to Azerbaijan

According to The Guardian, Azerbaijan is set to host its first Formula One Grand Prix during the 2015–16 season, following the signing of a deal with Bernie Ecclestone, head of F1. Speaking to the Daily Mail, he commented: “We’re going to Azerbaijan. The people out there are talking about holding a race in 2015. That may be a bit soon – unless it’s at the end of the season – that’s a possibility. But 2016 is more likely.” It is said the deal to host the race in Baku has been facilitated by Flavio Briatore, Ecclestone’s friend, former team principal at Renault.

UK PM Cameron recognises Azerbaijan’s role in EU energy security On 10 March, a parliamentary debate took place to assess the impact of the ongoing Ukrainian crisis and the UK’s relationship with Russia, during which UK Prime Minister David Cameron highlighted his recent meetings with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. Christopher Pincher, Member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee, and Chairman, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Azerbaijan, posed a question to the Prime Minister. He said: “Russia’s energy supplies give it tremendous muscle in Eastern Europe and in other parts of Europe too. That has been reiterated many times this afternoon. Specifically, over the medium-term, will he encourage the development of the Southern

Petrolheads come to Baku

The Baku International Motor Show (BIMS) will take place at the Baku Expo Centre from 15–17 May. As the largest car show in the Caspian region, this will gather Azerbaijani and foreign manufacturers alongside distributors and dealers of both cars and components. Industry professionals, journalists, motoring fans, government representatives, senior managers, banking and insurance representatives and mechanics will attend the exhibition.

Corridor of gas and oil pipelines from the South Caucasus, across Turkey and into Southern Europe, which will go a long way towards helping develop diversification of Europe’s energy landscape?” The Prime Minister replied: “Diversifying Europe’s energy supplies requires looking at what action we can take to link Europe to some of the supplies in the Caucasus. I remember discussing this issue with President Aliyev when I met him recently, and I know the Foreign Secretary has had those discussions as well. This is part of a larger pattern for diversifying Europe’s energy supplies and making us more resilient in this sort of situation.”

Suzuki, Harley Davidson and Vespa. The commercial sector will feature vehicles from MANN and HOVO and demonstrate heavy goods vehicles, dump trucks and semi-trailers for transporting various product types. AZPROMO and the Azerbaijani National Confederation of Entrepreneur Organisations will support the exhibition, which is organised by Iteca Caspian and their partners ITE Group. Details can be found at

Over 100 companies are expected to exhibit at the exhibition, which is one of the most popular motor trade shows in Azerbaijan. The current list of BIMS exhibitors includes companies from the UK, Japan and Sweden. The exhibition will be divided into three sections – cars and motorcycles, commercial transport, and spare parts and accessories.

The Baku International Motor Show will showcase all the latest automotive developments

Exhibitors will include such car manufacturers such as Bentley, Toyota, Lexus, and Volvo. Motorcycle dealerships will present new models from such leading international producers as Aprilia,


On 28 February, a readmission agreement was signed between the European Union and Azerbaijan (15594/13). This is indicative of Azerbaijan’s commitment towards combating illegal immigration in European member states.

The move also demonstrates Azerbaijan’s co-operative spirit towards implementing an

March 2014

e-mail: effective procedure whereby unauthorised persons will be identified and returned to Azerbaijan in a safe and orderly manner. Travel documents will be issued within five working days. The agreement specifies the readmission obligations of Azerbaijan and those of the European Union, and outlines the

readmission and transit procedures. Dr Roman Huna, Head, TEAS Brussels, said: “This important agreement will also simplify the travelling of Azerbaijani citizens to all EU countries in the Schengen zone, and vice-versa. It also shows the importance of the Vilnius Summit for the rapprochement between Azerbaijan and the EU.”



Pianist Saida Zulfugarova delighted a Parisian audience with her programme

Zulfugarova performs demanding repertoire in Paris The talented Paris-based Azerbaijani pianist Saida Zulfugarova has given an exciting and varied concert at the Eglise Reformée d’Auteil in Paris for an audience of 60 music-lovers and critics. Picking a varied repertoire, she performed three of Chopin’s Études, followed by Robert Schumann’s Carnaval, depicting revelers, which the composer considered to be too difficult for the general public to perform. Maurice Ravel’s La Sonatine equally has a reputation that

strikes fear into the hearts of most pianists, and the composer himself was known not to perform the final movement during his concerts. Saida concluded with Claude Debussy’s Suite pour le piano, which was replete with rich harmonies and textures, the final section being one of the few toccatas in the piano repertoire. Following rapturous applause, she performed one encore – one of Gara Garayev’s Préludes. To see and hear Saida’s spirited rendition of Tofig Guliyev’s Gaytagi, go to http://

Tofig Guliyev’s work heard in London

The London-resident Azerbaijani violinist Nazrin Rashidova has teamed up with Bulgarian guitarist Stanislav Hvartchilkov to perform songs by the famed Azerbaijani film composer Tofig Guliyev (1917–2000) in their own arrangements. Attended by a capacity audience of around 120 people at King’s Place, London, the programme included A Song About Baku, Friendly Country, Azerbaijan and Waltz of Love, all of which have been recorded on the CD Dreams, which was launched at the concert. To purchase a copy, go to http://bit. ly/guliyevcd.

Sounds of Azerbaijan brought to London More than 150 people enjoyed the inaugural UK performance by the mezzo-soprano Fidan Hajiyeva, one of the leading singers from the Azerbaijan State Opera and Ballet Theatre at King’s Place, London. The performance of Western and Azerbaijani songs and arias was given alongside pianist Zulfiya Sadigova as a celebration of Novruz, subtitled as Sounds of Spring. After a brief introduction by Farida Panahova, Azerbaijan House, H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, stated: “Music is one of the main parts of Azerbaijani culture. Azerbaijan was the first Eastern country to have a symphony orchestra and philharmonic society. Culture brings countries together and helps people understand our nation.”

Awakes My Heart from Camille Saint-Saëns’ Samson et Delilah. Zulfiya was also able to demonstrate her formidable pianistic skills on such evocative solo pieces as L’Isle Joyeuse by Claude Debussy and Ballade by Frédéric Chopin. To hear Fidan performing Habanera, go to Fidan Hajiyeva performs a dramatic aria from Bizet’s Carmen (Photo: Reni Dimitrova)

The varied programme included Fidan’s dramatic versions of Habanera from Georges Bizet’s Carmen, Gulchohra’s Aria from Uzeyir Hajibeyli’s Arshin Mal Alan (The Cloth Peddler) and Softly

RPO perform Azerbaijani music in Westminster Following a day-long conference, the Caspian Corridor Gala of Azerbaijani classical music has taken place in London, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra under the baton of Yalchin Adigezalov in front of an audience of around

500 people. The programme included some of the most outstanding works in the 20th century Azerbaijani classical repertoire, including Nazim Aliverdibeyov’s Bayati Shiraz, performed on the organ by Natavan Guliyeva; Fikret Amirov’s Bayati Shiraz

Symphonic Mugham; and Gara Garayev’s multifaceted Suite No.2 from his own Path of Thunder Ballet. Soprano Afag Abbasova also performed the challenging Sevil’s Aria from Fikret Amirov’s opera Sevil and the Arzu Romance by Niyazi.

March 2014


Personalities – Kinan Azmeh

Kinan Azmeh – at the heart of Khojaly 613

Hailed as a “virtuoso” and “intensely soulful” by The New York Times; “spellbinding” by The New Yorker; and with an “incredibly rich sound” by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, clarinettist and composer Kinan Azmeh ranks as one of Syria’s rising stars. Based in New York, he has performed across the world as a soloist, composer and improviser. Most recently he has released a duo album with pianist Dinuk Wijeratne, recorded with his New York Arabic/Jazz Quartet, and served as the artistic director of the Damascus Festival Chamber Music Ensemble, with which he has released a CD of contemporary Syrian chamber music. A few weeks ago he was a soloist in the chamber music version of the TEAS-commissioned work Khojaly 613 by Pierre Thilloy, which received its world premiére at the Khojaly Commemoration Concerts in Paris and its UK premiére in London. TEAS spoke to Kinan in London to find out more: What inspired you to participate in the performances of Khojaly 613? I have known Sabina Rakcheyeva for many years, since our time at the Juilliard School in New York. At the time we were living in the International Students’ House. We played a great deal of music together in different classical configurations, and improvised a great deal.

Sabina then went to live in Europe, but we kept in touch and she invited me to be a guest artist with her group on UnVeiled, her first CD. A few years later, Sabina approached me about Khojaly 613, and I took a leap of faith. We are now working with Pierre Thilloy, who is a fabulous composer, and I was pleased to be part of this project. I checked the score of Khojaly 613 and listened to the orchestral version. I always like to work with living composers and am always looking for new works. Another leap of faith is when the composer gives his work to the performer. I liked what I heard, and decided to participate. The clarinet part of Khojaly 613 was originally written for the balaban, an Azerbaijani traditional wind instrument, although music for this instrument is not notated and it uses a different musical scale. Was it problematic to use a classical instrument in this role? In fact, I do not think of the clarinet as a specifically classical instrument. In my view, an instrument is a tool that gives a voice to the musician. All instruments compete with the most superior instrument of all – the human voice. I therefore do not regard the Kinan collaborates with Sabina Rakcheyeva and The Solstice String Quartet in London

Kinan Azmeh performs his evocative role in the moving Khojaly 613 in Paris

clarinet as a classical instrument at all. It can be a jazz instrument, or be used for Balkan music, for example. It’s an instrument that says what I want it to say. I was not involved in writing the clarinet part, but Sabina and Pierre knew I would apply my own sound to what is written on the page. That’s when working with a living composer can be particularly valuable, as you have the opportunity to discuss the part and bring it to life. I also improvise on a couple of cadenzas – including one at the opening of the piece and another at the very end. Improvisation does not come from a void – it comes from the piece itself. Music is a continuum. What we regard is classical is not solely classical, and jazz is not only jazz. Every culture contributes somehow. Music is truly the language of the world. Khojaly 613 is aimed at raising awareness of Karabakh conflict, but do you believe music is bringing peoples together? As a Syrian musician living today, it is necessary what art can do in a time of conflict. It’s possible

March 2014

the Nagornoalso a way of to ask oneself that a clarinet

Personalities – Kinan Azmeh may not be able to stop a single bullet, but it remains my medium of expression. When it comes to a time of human tragedy across the globe, art is there to document the time, which is important. Sometimes art reflects something that happened a very long time ago, as it may be necessary for the composer to take time and reflect. Singer-songwriters such as Joan Baez were responding to their contemporary experiences during the Vietnam War, for example. I respond to this music from a purely human experience about what moves the world. I am worried about any unfairness and struggles that are taking place. We

but actually the makams are very specific to their culture. The makam ‘modes’ that exist in North Africa are different to those in Turkey, for example. The differences are slight, but experts can identify them. The same ‘mode’ can be played in both regions, but performed with a slightly different sensibility and vocabulary. I definitely felt that when we played the Azerbaijani traditional song Sari Gelin, it also belonged to me. Likewise, if I perform Mozart’s Concerto for Clarinet, I also feel that it is mine and I am one with the piece. One of the delights of being an artist is that you can immerse yourself in a culture and that is not necessarily your own. Through art, you can dig yourself


any piece of music, if your conscience is clear and your own playing moves you, then that is the success and power of art. There were around 300 people listening in Paris, and I felt they engaged and were a beautiful audience. It’s amazing that there are 300 different reactions to the piece. The connection between your senses and brain serve to determine your subjective reaction to the music. I was very happy to perform with people that I totally trust. A musical work is like a little plant – there’s a clarinet, violinist, string quartet, composer and the audience. All of us are caring for this little plant in the middle of the hall, which is the composition. It’s how we take the music from paper and how it becomes waves that all will appreciate. All of the musicians protect each other – it’s an incredible bonding experience, and I felt that. Do you feel that the piece successfully helped listeners understand the pain of the Khojaly Massacre? I felt it went beyond that. This was a situation where the people could sit and reflect for an hour. They have time to enjoy the music, and there is a pleasurable element and time to reflect. From a basic human perspective, it’s incredible, and totally necessary. All of us consume news without really thinking about it, and some art allows you to think on a higher level about current and past events. In the meantime, musical performance is a bonding experience and transcends all the barriers that can be imagined. Have you previously collaborated with any other Azerbaijani musicians? I did once write a piece that featured Alim Qasimov and his daughter Ferghana Qasimova – Azerbaijan’s best-known mugham singers on the international stage – as soloists at a festival in Osnabrück, Germany. I was asked to write a piece that would feature all the soloists from the festival.

Kinan Azmeh: “It’s possible that a clarinet may not be able to stop a single bullet, but it remains my medium of expression.”

are all in the moment together. If someone gets shot anywhere in the world, we are all affected. Are there any similarities between Syrian makam and Azerbaijani mugham? Of course, there are some similarities, particularly if you think of the ‘modes’ that exist in both musical forms. To the uninitiated, they may seem very close,

right into the music and produce your own interpretation. How did you feel the audience for the Khojaly Commemoration Concert in Paris responded to Khojaly 613? I do not gauge my performance on how people react. I am the first listener to what I play as I physically feel the sound waves before anyone else. When performing

I was previously exposed to Azerbaijani musicians when I was living in Damascus. During the Soviet period and just after independence, many teachers came from Azerbaijan. Rasim Abdullayev remains the most fabulous cellist that I know and made me fall in love with that instrument. I’m very honoured to participate in this concert, collaborating with great musicians and bringing Pierre’s music to life.

For more information on Kinan Azmeh, go to

March 2014


Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict Ambassador Siddiq commented on the need to respect Azerbaijani territorial integrity (Photo: British Embassy in Baku)

UK Ambassador stresses need for Armenian withdrawal H.E. Irfan Siddiq, UK Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has commented on UK– Azerbaijani trading relations, stating that the UK is the largest foreign investor in Azerbaijan. Speaking to students at Khazar University, he said: “We have invested more in Azerbaijan than any other country. This is mainly in the energy sector, through the work of BP and other companies engaged

in the oil and gas industries.” Ambassador Siddiq explained that many Azerbaijani students are currently studying at UK universities, saying: “Most of these are funded by the Azerbaijani State’s Scholarship Programme which enables them to study in the UK.” He went on to reiterate the need to respect Azerbaijani territorial integrity and for the withdrawal of Armenia from

James Warlick, US Co-Chair, OSCE Minsk Group, expressed the necessity of personal contact between the sides

the occupied territories. The Ambassador also commented on the importance of selfdetermination regarding the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh. He noted the referendum on Scottish independence this year, and said that the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh should be determined using an agreed peaceful mechanism that reflects the will of those currently or previously living in the region.

Warlick: people-to-people diplomacy is necessary

James Warlick, US Co-Chair, OSCE Minsk Group, has called on Azerbaijan and Armenia to support people-to-people diplomacy. Writing on his Twitter page, he said: “Both Armenia and Azerbaijan should support people-to-people programmes to develop tolerance and trust.”

Ambassadors request greater UK involvement Canadian bomb-disposal

Speaking at the end of the Caspian Corridor Conference at the London Stock Exchange, H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, called for increased UK government support to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. He said: “As the UK is the main overseas investor in Azerbaijan, and one of the five permanent UN Security Council members, it has an obligation to be a more active participant in bringing about peace. The OSCE Minsk Group is working to achieve a negotiated settlement. “The Basic Principles have been signed by Azerbaijan, but remain with Armenia, which has not responded, to date. I am interested in the best and fastest resolution. I am grateful to the Turkish Republic for their support. They have agreed that their relations with

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Armenia cannot be normalised until the return of the occupied territories.”

Responding to questioning, H.E. Ünal Çeviköz, Turkish Ambassador to the UK, commented: “We started a process with Armenia, which concluded with the signing of two protocols in 2009 in order to normalise Turkish– Armenian relations. These remain with both countries, awaiting ratification. Azerbaijan and Armenia are still in the process in finding a conclusion to the protracted conflict of NagornoKarabakh. We have to be hopeful about the future of all these separate bilateral relations and multilateral relations in the region. I hope that the Armenian– Azerbaijani relationship will be resolved and there are some encouraging signs to that effect. I am optimistic that Turkish–Armenian relations will be normalised in due course.”

robots purchased

The Azerbaijani Ministry of Emergency Situations has purchased bomb-disposal robots from Canada-based Med-Eng. The Azerbaijani National Agency for Mine Action (ANAMA) previously ordered various items of equipment from this company, which also specialises in producing protective and other military equipment.

Junior army sergeant killed on the ‘contact line’

Karam Nohbalayev, a Junior Sergeant in the Azerbaijani army was killed by Armenian fire on 26 February – the 23 rd anniversary of the Khojaly Massacre. He was subsequently awarded the medal for Distinguished Military Service (third degree) in accordance with the Order of ColonelGeneral Zakir Hasanov, Azerbaijani Minister of Defence.

Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict


Didier Bürkhalter recently met Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Davos

OSCE Chairperson acknowledges the Nagorno-Karabakh tinderbox

Addressing the Helsinki Commission in Washington D.C., Didier Bürkhalter, Chairperson-in-Office, OSCE and President of the Swiss Confederation stated: “Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the most dangerous conflicts in Europe.” Mr Bürkhalter recalled that one of his first meetings as Chairperson-inOffice was with the three OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, tasked with establishing a negotiated resolution to the conflict. He noted the role of the international community, saying: “I wish to emphasise at this point that, in both Nagorno-Karabakh and Georgia, US involvement at the highest political level would be helpful for our efforts. I am convinced that the stalemate in these protracted conflicts can only be overcome with greater engagement and attention by such

international key players as the US.”

Mr Bürkhalter said that control over conventional arms and the implementation of confidence-building measures and security were playing a key role in joint efforts to strengthen stability and transparency in the OSCE region. He also revealed plans to visit the South Caucasus in June. According to diplomatic sources, he will travel to the three countries in the region – Azerbaijan, Georgia and Armenia. Talks are expected to focus on these countries’ co-operation with the OSCE, and the resolution of regional conflicts, including that in Nagorno-Karabakh. Switzerland previously announced that the South Caucasus is one of the geographical priorities of its OSCE Chairmanship in 2014.

Defence Minister Hasanov visits the ‘contact line’ Colonel-General Zakir Hasanov, Azerbaijani Defence Minister, has visited the ‘contact line’ between Azerbaijan and the occupied territories, where he met soldiers and servicemen. During this visit, he was informed about the combat readiness of

the troops, the opportunities and effective use of modern armoured vehicles, and the moral and psychological state of the combat personnel. Colonel-General Hasanov gave instructions

aimed at optimising combat readiness and discipline, and stressed the importance of strictly observing safety rules regarding the use of ammunition, military equipment, improving the social conditions for servicemen and maintaining good health.

Azerbaijan to buy Mizrak-U helicopters

The new Mizrak-U helicopter incorporates the latest anti-missile systems

According to the Turkish Sabah newspaper, Azerbaijan is to buy Mizrak-U military helicopters from the Turkish Roketsan Company. This follows testing on 3 March. According to the manufacturer, the anti-missile system installed in the Mizrak-U can destroy targets at a distance of 8km. Mass production of the helicopters is scheduled for 2015.

Mammadyarov: “Azerbaijan is ready to sign comprehensive peace agreement”

Elmar Mammadyarov, Azerbaijani Foreign Minister, has discussed the current status of the Nagorno-Karabakh negotiation process during a meeting with the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs in Paris – Jacques Fauré (France), Igor Popov (Russian Federation) and James Warlick (US). Concerns were highlighted about the currently unsettled nature of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Mr Mammadyarov explained that the absence of a constructive approach from the Armenian side remained the main obstacle regarding conflict settlement, advancement of the peace process and restoration of regional stability. He went on to reiterate the readiness of the Azerbaijani side to sign the comprehensive peace agreement, stressing the necessity prerequisite for the withdrawal of the Armenian armed forces from the Azerbaijani occupied territories.

March 2014


Personalities – Sayyar Aliyev Sayyar Aliyev in his studio

Sayyar Aliyev – an artist with extraordinary vision

Sayyar Aliyev is an artist creating his own artistic world and has used his brush to realise numerous extraordinary works. His unique paintings are replete with deep meanings and have attracted a great deal of attention from the cognescenti. Sayyar’s relentless energy has led him to adopt clean lines and create an abstract representation of people, animals, nature and landscapes. His works are not preceded by studies, but are painted spontaneously, remaining alive and rich with cosmic energy. Mr Aliyev’s works have a positive impact on viewers, making them calm, and taking them on an emotional journey. His works remain alive and full of creativity. TEAS spoke to him in his Baku studio:

You were born in Shusha in the currently Armenian-occupied region of Nagorno-Karabakh. What was it like to live there at this time? Were you there during the conflict with Armenia? When did you leave? I was born in the town of Aghjabadi. This is located very close to Shusha, where I spent a significant amount of my life, and which ranks amongst the most picturesque regions of Azerbaijan. I graduated from Shusha Secondary School and thereafter became a teacher. I feel at home in every region of Azerbaijan, but Shusha is a different world for me. It is an ancient, charming town, surrounded by fascinating scenery. The ongoing Armenian occupation of Shusha is the source of great pain for me. I can never forget the years I spent there before the conflict.

When did you begin to paint professionally? I was born into a family of professionals, and both parents were teachers. No other family members were musicians or artists and, following graduation, I worked as as a teacher in the Shusha Technical School. I then taught at the Teachers’ Training College of Shusha University. I am currently a teacher at the Azerbaijani State Teachers’ Training University. I hold a doctorate in History, and am a member of the Azerbaijani Artists’ Union. Art was never a mere hobby for me – I have been involved for a long time and dreamed of becoming an artist since my school days. I have a great deal of interest in art, and my works have received a high level of cricitical appreciation. I have been working in oil paints for at least 20 years. Your paintings owe much to some of the most famous western artists, such as Vincent Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock and George Grosz. Did you actively reject the ‘Soviet-approved’ SocialistRealist approach? I spent the majority of my life in Azerbaijan during the Soviet period,

Were you there during the conflict with Armenia? When did you leave? I was living there during the conflict and, in 1988, virtually all Azerbaijani citizens were banished from Armenia, with many refugees relocating to Shusha for their own safety. I could never imagine that, one day, I would be in a similar position to the refugees. However, I eventually fled Shusha with my family. I have now been away from Shusha for 22 years, yet it continues to remain in my heart. I will never forget the beautiful place where I spent my childhood, and hope I will return soon. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly said that Azerbaijan will never be reconciled with this occupation, will restore its territorial integrity, and the Azerbaijani flag will wave in Khankendi and Shusha.

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The victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict are omnipresent in Aliyev’s work, particularly here in The Grief of the Yellow Rock

Personalities – Sayyar Aliyev


A disturbing vision of The Voice of the Spirits

and it was impossible to ignore the values of that era. Many of the best-known Azerbaijani artists followed the Soviet art aesthetic. In fact, I was always interested in western art, although I have never tried to copy their style or works. Critics have compared my works with those of many famous international artists. Has your life in Nagorno-Karabakh and experiences during the conflict with Armenia affected your choice of themes? Nagorno-Karabakh is the main topic of my work and, more specifically, my preferred topics are the pain of Shusha, the Khojaly tragedy and other issues related to Nagorno-Karabakh. In addition, I have painted many works relating to the massacre on 20 January 1990 in Baku, known as Black January. Do you listen to any music whilst you work? Actually, I do not listen to any music while I am painting – instead, I plunge into my interior world. Normally, I stand in front of a white canvas and work for four or five hours without a break. I paint directly and spontaneously on my canvas and do not initially work on any studies. Often, I do not realise what I am painting myself, and only recognise the subject when it is completed. I can spend anything between a few days and a few weeks on each canvas. After each artwork is complete, I relax by drinking wine whilst listening to music. Has your life in Nagorno-Karabakh, and experiences during the conflict in Armenia, affected your choice of themes? My experiences have had a profound impact on my work. As previously mentioned, the Nagorno-Karabakh tragedy disturbs and stimulates me to create my artworks. My awareness of this conflict

and the tragic events never let me rest. They are the source of great pain for a creative person. Are any Azerbaijani national symbols integrated in your work? Naturally, my work incorporates or reflects national symbols. In the past, I have painted symbols from the flag of Azerbaijan. The national ornaments are represented in most of my work. In my view, artists should promote values related to their nationality, if possible. Do you solely use oil paints, or have you experimented with other modes of artistic expression? I am able to express myself using various artistic forms. During my time at secondary school, I was very interested in sculpture and made many figures. I am currently focusing on oil paints and graphics, and often use such implements as the brush and palette knife. Where has your work been exhibited and sold? Many exhibitions of my work have taken place within Azerbaijan, and I have organised numerous exhibitions within the country. The latest exhibitions were dedicated to the 21st and 22nd anniversaries of the occupation of Shusha. I would like more of my work to be exhibited overseas, but my sales have generally been of landscapes. My 2013 private exhibition comprised around 70 paintings depicting Shusha and elsewhere in Nagorno-Karabakh.

To see more examples of Sayyar Aliyev’s work, go to

March 2014


Business News

Ambassador Siddiq: “a dynamic, ambitious and exciting country”

H.E. Irfan Siddiq, UK Ambassador to Azerbaijan, has attended the launch of The Economist – The World in 2014 in Baku. In the publication, he wrote: “‘Azerbaijan is a dynamic, ambitious and exciting country. It is one that has seen remarkable change over the last two decades. A modern, developing state has emerged from the rubble of the collapse of the Soviet Union and the ruinous impact of conflict.

“The regional political situation is promising. Azerbaijan has successfully charted a course of equidistance from competing regional powers so as to best establish its independence. Relations with Russia are better than they have been for some time, following recent exchanges between Presidents Aliyev and Putin. The international community’s rapprochement with Iran should also help build greater regional stability and confidence. The conflict with Armenia over NagornoKarabakh remains a major concern and potential source of instability, but the resumption of dialogue at the highest level following the meeting of the Presidents in November 2013 has changed the tone and atmosphere between the two states with a new-found optimism in place. Relations with the EU and NATO remain productive, although there is scope for further intensification of the EU relationship. “Azerbaijan’s far-sighted decision to early on open its energy resources to international expertise, laid the foundations for the prosperity and development that the state has seen in recent years. The successful development of the oil industry has been the bedrock for this progress, but in recent years ambitious

Ambassador Siddiq outlined the current and future nature of UK–Azerbaijani relations (Photo: British Embassy in Baku)

gas projects have also been approved, confirming Azerbaijan’s status as an emerging regional energy power. Moving ahead with the successful implementation of the huge new projects, particularly the Shah Deniz II and Southern Gas Corridor Pipelines, will be major priorities in 2014 and a demonstration of Azerbaijan’s ability to deliver the ambitious vision of energy diversification that it has pledged. “However, energy cannot always be the source of Azerbaijani prosperity and the longer term priority is for economic diversification. This is particularly clear in 2014, given that the State Budget has announced a significant deficit for the first time in recent history. So developing other sectors of the economy that can generate growth and employment is a must. Azerbaijan has already taken some steps in this direction, identifying areas such as information and communications technology (ICT) and education as priorities. But to be truly successful in

this policy of economic diversification, Azerbaijan will also need to consider steps to further liberalise the economy and allow greater competition to drive innovation and growth. “The UK remains the largest foreign investor in Azerbaijan with over 50 per cent of foreign direct investment (FDI). As Azerbaijan looks to diversify its economy and develop new sectors, the UK is a natural partner in this endeavour. With many British companies already in the market with an established record of successful partnership and with UK companies offering expertise in the areas Azerbaijan is looking to develop, there are great opportunities for collaboration. With goodwill from both sides, and strong leadership aimed at developing the economic reform process from within Azerbaijan, 2014 could be a very successful year for Azerbaijan and for UK–Azerbaijani co-operation.” To purchase the full report, go to azerbaijanworld2014.

Botas in talks for Total’s Shah Deniz share

As reported by Bloomberg, Botas Boru Hatlari Ile Petrol Tasima AS, the Turkish state pipeline company, is in talks to buy French Total’s share of the Shah Deniz II project. It is also seeking to purchase the company’s stake in the Baku–Tbilisi–Erzurum (BTE) pipeline. Total currently holds 10 per cent of the field and the pipeline. A sale would follow a similar move by Shah Deniz partner Statoil, which divested a 10 per cent stake in the field and the BTE for $1.5bn (£901.1m) to BP plc and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR) and now holds 15.5 per cent. According to the Turan agency, Total has been seeking a buyer since the end of 2013, and negotiations with Botas began in early 2014.

Talks afoot for Eurobond push

Azerbaijan has launched a debut sovereign Eurobond, which it hopes will raise $1bn (£601m) during its 10-year issue. Azerbaijani officials have met investors in Europe, the UK and the US. According to International Financing Review, the bond is attracting strong interest. In October, Fitch Ratings affirmed Azerbaijan’s long-term foreign and local currency issuer default ratings (IDRs) and senior unsecured bonds at ‘BBB–’. The ratings agency cited stabilising oil production and a sovereign balance sheet that is “one of the

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strongest among rated sovereigns.” Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed Azerbaijan’s ratings at ‘BBB–/A–3’ with a ‘stable’ outlook in January, saying that the country “maintains strong net general government and external asset positions.” The International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA) has indicated it may issue its own $500m (£300.6m) Eurobond this year. Jahangir Hajiyev, Chairman, IBA, said in November that a potential 5–7 year issue is “linked with an increase of IBA capital,” which it hopes will increase by AZN500m (£383.3m) within the next four years.

Business News


Second Caspian Corridor Conference hosted in London

The second Caspian Corridor Conference, supported by the London Stock Exchange Group (LSEG), International Bank of Azerbaijan (IBA), Britain–Azerbaijan Business Council (BABC), and Asia House, has taken place at the London Stock Exchange. This brought together global leaders from government, business, academia and media to examine the economic developments and opportunities in the region.

The Conference examined the driving forces behind the region’s growth, and its close ties with the UK. Charles Hendry, MP, the British Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, stressed the importance of co-operation amongst the Caspian Corridor countries. Baroness Elizabeth Symons praised the UK’s ongoing relationship with the region’s states. She particularly acknowledged the projects being spearheaded by the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR) and KazMunayGa, the Kazakh national oil company. Natig Aliyev, Azerbaijani Energy Minister, stated that Azerbaijan had already become a reliable partner, both in the region and on the international scene. He commented on the construction of the Southern Corridor of pipelines, which will bring Azerbaijani Caspian gas to Italy through the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), describing this as “a strong signal of Azerbaijan’s ability to implement large-scale projects that can change the energy picture of the region.” Elshad Nasirov, Vice-President, SOCAR, described the Southern Corridor as “hugely important for the European market” and outlined the strength of collaboration between such countries as Russia, Georgia, Turkey and Greece. Gordon Birrell, Regional President: Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, BP, summed up the three major developments since the previous Caspian Corridor Conference in 2011 – the emergence of the Shah Deniz Consortium, which focuses on exploration of the Shah Deniz II field, the selection of TAP to bring gas from the European border of Turkey to Europe, and the signing of the $45bn (£27bn) final investment decision (FID) between the Shah Deniz Consortium and the Azerbaijani government. He revealed that three Shah Deniz wells have already been sunk.

Some of the speakers at the Caspian Corridor Conference in the auspicious surroundings of the London Stock Exchange

Matthew Bryza, former US Ambassador to Azerbaijan, outlined some of Azerbaijan’s successes, particularly with regard to fighting poverty. He stated that the Azerbaijani government has already recognised the need for economic diversification, and particularly cited the work that is taking place to develop the IT sector. Matthew also discussed some of the challenges facing the country, such as its geopolitical position and the need for demonopolisation to optimise efficiency. H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, said: “Most attention to Azerbaijan has related to energy issues. Construction of the Baku–Tbilisi–Ceyhan oil pipeline, which became operational nearly a decade ago, was a test for Azerbaijan. We were newly-independent and at war with Armenia. Tremendous efforts were made in Azerbaijan to make this successful, and it proved that Azerbaijan is a reliable country. Azerbaijan has brought stability to the region, and this is due to excellent relations with its neighbours. There are more than 400 UK businesses and 5000 expatriates in Azerbaijan.” H.E. Ünal Çeviköz, Turkish Ambassador to the UK, said: “Azerbaijan has undertaken an impressive level of development. I was Turkish Ambassador to Azerbaijan and saw what happened during the 1994–2004 period. Since then, even further economic expansion has occurred. It is important that Azerbaijan is looking to diversify its economy and look to the future.”

EBRD announces plans for Azerbaijani economic development The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has announced plans to promote a market-oriented economy in Azerbaijan, to diversify and develop a sustainable financial sector, and improve the business environment, within its strategy for 2014–17. The EBRD document said: “It is important for Azerbaijan to achieve significant progress in diversifying its economy during the next strategic period.” The Bank will

Discussions underway at the Azerbaijan Day, hosted by the EBRD in London

remain involved in projects in the field of hydrocarbon production to support increased competition and the introduction of best management practice, thereby improving the regulatory framework.

The document said: “The involvement of the country in such strategically important projects as the Southern Gas Corridor will contribute to the diversification of export routes and the energy security of Europe.” It also acknowledged some developments: “The government has made some improvements in tax administration with a view to both reducing tax compliance costs for businesses and increasing tax collection rates. The new Customs Code, which came into effect in January 2012, includes strengthened provisions in various areas that are expected to bring regulations into line with international standards (including verification of the country of origin, valuation methods, the single window principle in

customs administration, customs audit, and electronic submission of information on goods to the customs authorities).” It also looked at Azerbaijan’s burgeoning role as a freight transit and transportation hub, saying: “The North–South rail corridor, linking Azerbaijan with Russia and Iran, as well as the country’s main East–West railway transport corridor, are being upgraded with the support of World Bank and other international financial institutions (IFIs). The Baku International Sea Trade Port Project should help strengthen the country’s role as a trade link between Europe and Asia.” The EBRD invests in the enterprise, financial and infrastructure sectors to promote sustainable growth in Azerbaijan. As of late November 2013, the EBRD has undersigned a total of 138 projects, with a total project value of €6.6bn (£5.5bn).

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