Sharing values of peace and development, Britain and Azerbaijan both have a great deal in common
With large numbers of Azerbaijani youth already travelling to the UK to study at top universities, and with international trade on the increase, a close partnership between the UK and Azerbaijan is important than ever
The promotion of democracy and democratic freedoms is at the heart of the UK’s foreign policy. We believe that democratic institutions and accountable government are the foundations on which open, stable, and prosperous societies thrive. The Foreign Secretary has set out his vision for the UK’s role in supporting the values of democracy. In a speech in October, the former Foreign Secretary said that the UK’s relationships with international partners were underpinned by the values of democracy; rule of law; separation of powers; respect for individual civil and political rights; a belief in free trade. His vision is to see strong relationships to help “build that invisible chain between those who share our values. And make it as strong and resilient as it needs to be as new nations rise and the world order is challenged anew.”
Following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union in 2016, people began to question Britain’s relationship with countries such as Azerbaijan. An expectation of a closer relationship going forward was expressed on both sides, as Independent nations.
The British have been closely tied into Azerbaijan at various points of the nation’s history, dating all the way back to 1918 when the British Empire briefly came to the country. In 1994, the Production Sharing Agreement (PSA) allowed British Petroleum (BP) access to oil reserves in the Caspian Sea and the company remains a strong partner for the nation, funding numerous educational and business initiatives locally. At the root of economic cooperation between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom lies the energy industry. The UK is now the largest foreign investor in the country ad BP actively participates in the field exploration of oil and natural gas in projects such as Shah Deniz-2.
Our respective Government’s must schedule a continuation of the discussion on our shared values of respect for diversity, multiculturalism and equality, with Azerbaijan ensuring synagogues and other places of worship are freely open around the clock in line with the ‘Respect Agenda for Minorities’.
It is my belief that real friendship is sharing the same values of peace and development and Britain and Azerbaijan both have a great deal in common in terms of national aspirations that much is clear.
I very much hope that our two countries will enter a period of further closer partnership between our respective Governments, most especially in the fields of education, with large numbers of Azerbaijani youth already travelling to the UK to study at top Universities, and with international trade on the increase, these discussions are now more important than ever.
I recently took part in an election observation mission during the latest election and the what stood out from my observations was that whilst Azerbaijan is a very young democracy that only gained its independence in 1991, people were focussed and passionate at the polling stations. It is my hope that we will see turnout increase over the next coming elections and see it rise to a level that we have in the United Kingdom. When it comes to elections taking place in Azerbaijan, it is clear that this is part of the intricate democracy building process that is taking place in this country.
A topic of great concern and interest in the United Kingdom at the time of elections and one that Britain looks at when promoting its values of democracy abroad is that of transparency and of voter fraud. During my recent visit I was particularly surprised by the method by which Azerbaijan has chosen to deal with the issue. I was fascinated to learn that once a vote has been cast, the individual is then marked with an invisible ink so that if they try to vote again, they can be identified as having already voted. The United Kingdom could take note of this policy and certainly look at discussing developing and implementing its own similar policy.
Bob Blackman is the Conservative Member of Parliament for Harrow East.
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