On 4 July, Hillary Clinton visited Azerbaijan, being the first US Secretary-of-State to do so for 18 years. During her trip, she made an attempt to repair previous strains in US-Azerbaijani relations. Bilateral energy and security co-operation, together with resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, took centre-stage as major discussion topics.
The Islamic Development Bank (IDB) has designated $450m (£298.7m) to 11 prospective Azerbaijani projects during the next three years, according to Dr Ahmad Mohamed Ali Al-Madani, President, IDB Group. Since 1992, the IDB has assigned $528m (£350.4m) to Azerbaijan. Dr Al-Madani continued by commenting that all delegates: "Admire Azerbaijan’s achievements in fighting the financial crisis." President Aliyev revealed: "Although the country only adopted the market economy under 20 years ago, the private sector now accounts for 85 per cent of GDP.
Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian President Sargsyan met in St. Petersburg for fresh talks to end the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, hosted by Russian President Medvedev. The meeting took place alongside an international economic forum. The Russian President’s Press Service stated that the talks focused on the 'pivotal problem' affecting resolution. It commented: "A convergence of positions has been observed regarding several contentious provisions of the basic principles for settlement.
The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) has been invited to be the resident orchestra at this year’s Gabala International Music Festival, taking place from 24 July–6 August. This historic occasion marks the first time that a full symphony orchestra from the UK has performed in the country. Held in the open air, it will perform classical repertoire by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninov and Beethoven alongside works by such Azerbaijani composers as Uzeyir Hajibeyov and Fikret Amirov.
In a worrying move, on 21 June Gazprom reduced gas deliveries to Belarus by 40 per cent, following demands to immediately settle a $187m (£124.1m) debt. This decision came in the wake of Belarusian rejection of new Russian gas prices. Alexei Miller, Chief Executive, Gazprom threatened that: "Gas supplies will be reduced day-by-day, proportionate to the debt's volume", eventually being decreased to 15 per cent of their normal level.
It has been calculated that the total damage suffered by Azerbaijan due to the conflict with Armenia over the invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven surrounding regions has reached AZN70bn (£57.9bn). The statement was made by Ali Hasanov, Head of the State Committee for Refugees and IDPs. Hasanov commented that this figure would be re-evaluated following the withdrawal of the Armenian militia and the return of the IDPs to their homeland.
It is undeniable that Rashid Behbudov (1915–89) was one of the great names of 20th century Azerbaijani popular culture. Appearing in films and on stage, he founded the State Song Theatre; took the lead role in the 1945 film version of Uzeyir Hajibeyov’s musical comedy The Cloth Peddler; and appeared in operas, such as Fikret Amirov’s Sevil. His awards included People’s Artist of the USSR, and he achieved popularity in such diverse regions as Turkey, South America and India.
In London, SOCAR and BP have a signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) regarding the joint exploration and development of structures D8 and D10 in the Caspian Sea, now known as the Shafag and Asiman structures, respectively. The signatories were Rovnag Abdullayev, President, SOCAR, and Andy Inglis, Chief Executive of Exploration and Production, BP. It is anticipated that a 25-year production-sharing agreement (PSA) will be signed in the near future.
Dr Parvin Ahanchi, Fulbright scholar and Leading Researcher at the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography of the Azerbaijan National Academy of Sciences presented a lecture entitled Occupation and Conflict in Azerbaijan at the San José Peace and Justice Centre, California. This was attended by students and public from universities across northern California and members of the Centre.
In June, a package of gas agreements were signed in Istanbul in the presence of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, thus indicating the warming relations between the countries and the potential for future energy sector collaboration. The documents, comprising two MoUs and one Declaration, specified the following: