OVERVIEW OF BILATERAL RELATIONS
After Azerbaijan restored its independence on October 18, 1991, the United Kingdom was one of the first Western countries to recognize the independence of Azerbaijan on 26 December 1991. The diplomatic relations between the two countries were established on 11 March 1992.
The British Embassy was opened in Baku in September 1993. The UK’s current Ambassador to Azerbaijan, James Lyall Sharp has been appointed in 2018.
Azerbaijani Embassy in London was opened in January 1994. The current Ambassador of Azerbaijan in the UK, Elin Suleymanov has been appointed in 2021.
The Republic of Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom enjoy strategic partnership and strong bilateral relations, the cooperation between the two covering a wide range of issues from high-level political dialogue to energy, growing trade and investments links, as well as strengthening cultural and humanitarian ties.
High Level Visits
Throughout the years, the partnership and cooperation between Azerbaijan and the UK has been developed as a result of mutual exchange of high-level visits between the two countries.
The official visits by President Heydar Aliyev of Azerbaijan on 19-23 February 1994 and on 19-24 July 1998 to the United Kingdom have laid firm foundation for further development of mutually beneficial cooperation between the two countries.
In January 1996, British Secretary of State, Malcolm Rifkind paid an official visit to Azerbaijan where he met President of Azerbaijan, Heydar Aliyev and other state officials. During the visit, the parties signed an Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement between the two countries underlining the importance both sides gave to the advancement of bilateral trade and investment opportunities.
The official visits of the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev on 13-14 December 2004 and on 13-15 July 2009 to the United Kingdom have contributed to advancing and deepening the bilateral relations across many spheres. President Ilham Aliyev also paid a working visit to the United Kingdom on 6-7 August 2012 to attend 2012 London Olympic Games and hold meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron.
In December, 2013 British Foreign Secretary William Hague visited Baku to attend the signing ceremony of the Shah Deniz-2 deal. During his meeting, the Foreign Secretary has met Azerbaijani President and Foreign Minister.
On April 26, 2018, upon the invitation of Theresa May, Prime Minister of the UK, President Ilham Aliyev paid a one-day visit to the United Kingdom. During this visit, he met Prime Minister May and the meeting was followed by the signing of Agreement between SOCAR and BP on the exploration development and production sharing for the prospective exploration block D230 in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. While in London, President Aliyev also met Sir Alan Duncan, State Minister for Europe and Americas as well as members of All Party Parliamentary Group on Azerbaijan in the UK Parliament.
Despite COVID-19 pandemic, two State Ministers have paid visits to Azerbaijan during the first half of 2021:
On February 8-10, 2021 Wendy Morton, UK Minister for European Neighbourhood and Americas visited Azerbaijan to attend the UK-Azerbaijan bilateral foreign policy dialogue. During the visit, Minister Morton met President Ilham Aliyev as well as Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov, Minister of Ecology and Natural Resources, Minister of Energy, Minister of Education and Parliamentary Speaker of Azerbaijan to discuss different aspects of bilateral relations between the two countries and overall security situation in the region.
On May 20-23, 2021 UK Exports Minister Graham Stuart visited Baku to attend the 4th meeting of the UK-Azerbaijan Joint Intergovernmental Commission. During the visit, the State Minister met President Ilham Aliyev as well as ministers of Energy, Economy, Transport, Communications & High Technologies and Ecology & Natural Resources to discuss further co-operation with Azerbaijan and to reinforce the two countries’ existing trade and economic relationship. While in Azerbaijan, Mr. Stuart also participated in the launching ceremony of the newly established British Chamber of Commerce & Industry in Azerbaijan.
Political dialogue between Azerbaijan and UK
In 2016, bilateral foreign policy dialogue has been established between the foreign ministries of Azerbaijan and the UK which had four meetings up until now:
- First bilateral foreign policy dialogue was held in London on February 11, 2016 between Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Khalaf Khalafov and Minister for Europe at FCO, David Lidington;
- Second bilateral foreign policy dialogue was held in Baku on September 14, 2017 between Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Khalaf Khalafov and Minister for Europe and the Americas at FCO, Sir Alan Duncan;
- Third bilateral foreign policy dialogue was held in London on October 23, 2018 between Deputy Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Khalaf Khalafov and Minister for Europe and the Americas at FCO, Sir Alan Duncan;
- Fourth bilateral foreign policy dialogue was held in Baku on February 23, 2021 between Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Jeyhun Bayramov and Minister for European Neighbourhood and the Americas at FCDO, Wendy Morton.
Azerbaijan-United Kingdom Inter-Parliamentary Friendship Group in Azerbaijani Parliament (Milli Majlis) was established in March 1997. The group is currently chaired by Mr. Javanshir Feyziyev, MP.
All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Azerbaijan in the UK Parliament was established in 2014 and is currently chaired by Mr. Bob Blackman MP.
The bilateral economic cooperation, especially in the energy sector, between the two countries constitutes the core of bilateral relations between the Republic of Azerbaijan and the United Kingdom. Azerbaijan cooperates with the United Kingdom in the field of exploration and transportation of oil and natural gas from the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea. BP as a leading oil company has been active in Azerbaijan since 1992 and participates in the main production sharing agreements such as the “Contract of Century” (Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli - ACG) and the Shah Deniz project. BP is also main technical operator and key player in the implementation of Shah Deniz-2 project. The Signing Ceremony on Final Investment Decision on Shah Deniz-2 project took place in Baku in 2013, attended by Foreign Secretary William Hague, among high level dignitaries of many other countries.
Driven by the extraordinary success of ACG’s development, the Government of Azerbaijan and the ACG partnership extended the ACG contract until mid-century (the end of 2049) by signing a new agreement on 14 September 2017. The new contract was signed in Baku in the presence of President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and Sir Alan Duncan, UK State Minister for Europe and the Americas.
On April 26, 2018 SOCAR and BP signed a new production sharing agreement (PSA) for the joint exploration and development of Block D230 in the North Absheron basin in the Azerbaijan sector of the Caspian Sea. The PSA was signed in London, in the presence of UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev.
The United Kingdom remains the single largest foreign investor in Azerbaijan with about 600 British companies operating in the country. Up until now, the UK invested more than USD 27 billion to Azerbaijan which accounts for 51.7% of all foreign investment to Azerbaijan. In 2019, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and the UK was GBP 903 million.
Since 2016, Baroness Nicholson of Winterbourne works as the UK Prime Minister’s Trade Envoy to Azerbaijan which gives a further impetus to bilateral economic relations.
UK-Azerbaijan Joint Intergovernmental Commission
UK-Azerbaijan Joint Intergovernmental Commission was established in 2015 and has since had four sessions:
- First session of the Commission was held in London in 2016 and was co-chaired by Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan, Shahin Mustafayev and UK Minister for Trade and Investment Francis Maude;
- Second session of the Commission was held in Baku in 2017 and was co-chaired by Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan, Shahin Mustafayev and UK Minister for Trade Baroness Rona Fairhead;
- Third session of the Commission was held in London in 2019 and was co-chaired by Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan, Parviz Shahbazov and UK Minister for Trade, George Hollingbery;
- Fourth session of the Commission was held in Baku in 2021 and was co-chaired by Minister of Energy of Azerbaijan, Parviz Shahbazov and UK Minister for Exports, Graham Stuart.