Over 400 Conservatives get into the groove at the TEAS jazz reception

Press Release: On 1 October, the spirited music of Azerbaijani violinist Sabina Rakcheyeva and the Deco Ensemble entranced more than 400 Conservatives attending this year’s party conference in Manchester. Sabina was the first Azerbaijani graduate from the Juilliard School in New York and is the Arts and Culture Advisor to The European Azerbaijan Society (TEAS). The talented musicians performed a vibrant mix of standards, tangos and their own compositions.

This TEAS event was organised to increase awareness of the ongoing close relationship between the Azerbaijan and the UK. This remains the leading Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) contributor to the country, chiefly through the operations of BP regarding gas and oil exploration in the Caspian Sea. This year, Azerbaijan has added relevance to the EU, as the agreements to facilitate construction of the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) have been finalised. Scheduled for completion in 2018, this will bring Azerbaijani gas from the European border of Turkey to Italy, ensuring EU energy security and permitting supply diversity. The pipeline will play an essential role in the Southern Energy Corridor project.

Christopher Pincher MP, Chairman of the Azerbaijan All-Party Parliamentary Group and Member of the Energy and Climate Change Select Committee said: “I have now visited Azerbaijan on two occasions, and am continually impressed by the friendliness of the people and their openness to change. This is a pivotal year for relations between Azerbaijan and UK, as the signing of the TAP deal serves to reinforce the relevance of the nation – and the South Caucasus as a whole – to Europe.”

Lionel Zetter, Director, TEAS, commented: “On the day that Azerbaijan assumes the presidency of the UN Security Council, I am pleased to welcome so many Conservatives to tonight’s event. Azerbaijani music is renowned for its vibrancy, and we can expect a treat this evening. But Azerbaijan represents more than just music – it is a western-facing, tolerant country. In particular, the UK is important to Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijan is important to the UK. Much of this is attributable to the operations of the BP-led Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AIOC). Currently, around 300 British businesses are active in Azerbaijan, ranging from FTSE 100 firms to SMEs. Approximately 4000 British expats have made Baku their home. Events like this evening only serve to show the increasing relevance between Azerbaijan, the UK and the rest of Western Europe.”

Charles Hendry MP, former UK Energy Minister and current UK Trade Envoy to Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan also spoke, emphasising the importance of the trade links between the UK and Azerbaijan, in the energy sector especially but also in other industrial sectors.

H.E. Fakhraddin Gurbanov, Azerbaijani Ambassador to the UK, commented: “I am delighted to welcome so many Conservatives to tonight’s event. This is a momentous time for my country, particularly given the recent finalisation of the TAP pipeline deal. But there is more to Azerbaijan than just oil and gas – there are investment opportunities in ICT, infrastructure, agribusiness, and tourism, amongst other sectors. I invite each and every one of you to visit Azerbaijan and experience it for yourselves.”

The reception complemented an article from TEAS in The House Magazine, distributed to thousands of Conservative members at the conference. This contains information about the expanding relationship between Azerbaijan and the UK, both in and outside of the energy sector.

The article initially concentrates on the impact of the Contract of the Century in 1994, brokered by the current President Ilham Aliyev, when the AIOC and the State Oil Company of the Azerbaijani Republic (SOCAR) decided on extraction agreements for Caspian resources. It then outlines the future impact of TAP.

The article concludes that Azerbaijan is an “economic powerhouse” and presents opportunities in many other sectors, including ICT, financial services and tourism, and that the “future looks bright” in the “Land of Fire” for UK companies.

For more information and photographs, please contact Neil Watson, Editor and Press Officer, TEAS on neil.watson@teas.eu.