President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan and BP Chairman Helge Lund recently met in Baku to discuss future oil and gas projects in Azerbaijan. The meeting took place on the anniversary of the “Contract of the Century,” a 1994 agreement that allowed foreign extractors, including BP, to access Azerbaijan’s Caspian oil fields. Despite Western countries’ condemnation of Azerbaijan’s recent assault on Nagorno-Karabakh, they are becoming increasingly reliant on the country for energy.
During the meeting, the two leaders discussed BP’s interest in future oil and gas projects in Azerbaijan, according to Azerbaijan’s APA news agency. This meeting occurred just hours after Azerbaijan reached a ceasefire deal with Nagorno-Karabakh, bringing an end to over 24 hours of bloodshed. Azerbaijani forces had shelled the region as part of what they claimed were counter-terrorism measures against an alleged buildup of Armenian troops.
Under the ceasefire agreement, Nagorno-Karabakh is expected to return to full Azerbaijani control. This comes after Armenia and Azerbaijan fought two wars over the province in the 1990s and in 2020. Earlier this summer, current Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced that he was ready to relinquish Yerevan’s claim over Nagorno-Karabakh, a decision that proved highly unpopular among the Armenian public and diaspora. Pashinyan has attempted to blame Russia for not defending Nagorno-Karabakh, but Moscow has pointed out that it was Pashinyan’s own decision to formally recognize the province as Azerbaijani territory. The Kremlin has also criticized Pashinyan’s recent outreach to the West.
While American, British, and European diplomats explicitly condemned Azerbaijan’s use of military force, the UK’s reaction was more muted compared to other European countries. Foreign Secretary James Cleverly declined to issue a statement on Tuesday. The UK has previously faced condemnation for allowing BP- and Aliyev-funded promotional material to be aired on state television. Cleverly also faced calls to denounce Baku’s blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh earlier this summer, which he ignored.
In Europe, relations with Azerbaijan are particularly significant since the EU cut off its gas imports from Russia last year. As a result, the bloc made a deal with Azerbaijan last July to double its annual gas deliveries to 20 billion cubic meters by 2027, in an effort to replace Russian gas as an energy source. Despite calls from the European Parliament to impose sanctions on Azerbaijan and reexamine the 2022 gas deal, European Council President Charles Michel accepted the ceasefire. He called Aliyev to urge the safe and dignified treatment of Karabakh Armenians by Azerbaijan.
It is evident that Azerbaijan’s energy resources hold significant importance for Western countries, despite the recent conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh. The meeting between President Aliyev and BP Chairman Lund highlights the continued cooperation and interest in future oil and gas projects in Azerbaijan. This dynamic further underscores the complexities of geopolitics and energy dependency in the region.