Photos: Alex Zakharov

The Ambassador of Azerbaijan to Austria, H.E. Mr. Rovshan Sadigbayli, gave an engaging speech as part of Lauder Business School’s Fireplace Talks series on May 15. His Excellency discussed Azerbaijan’s crucial position in the political landscape of the world – a bridge between East and West.

The natural resources of Azerbaijan are its biggest assets. Azerbaijan has emerged as a major player in the global energy scene and has proven to be an essential partner for regional energy security and EU diversification efforts thanks to its sizable reserves of oil and natural gas and its sophisticated pipeline infrastructure that links the nation to numerous markets in Western Asia and Europe. Azerbaijan has a special position in energy security, both locally and globally, according to Ambassador Sadigbayli, a distinguished diplomat and Permanent Representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and other international organizations in Vienna. The country is a key source and transit point for hydrocarbon resources through the Southern Gas Corridor and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipelines, boosting economic cooperation and diplomatic ties with both nearby nations and European countries. This helps Europe achieve its goal of reducing dependence on a single energy and gas supply and diversifying its pool of energy suppliers.

During his speech, ambassador Sadigbayli underscored Azerbaijan’s dedication to supplying energy security in Europe and beyond, adopting a strong multilateralist stance. He emphasized the significance of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan Pipeline (BTC) and the Southern Gas Corridor, two of Azerbaijan’s largest infrastructure initiatives. The South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP), Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) make up the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC). The beneficiaries of Azerbaijan’s direct gas export include Italy, Greece, Croatia, Albania, Turkey, and Georgia. The Shah Deniz field’s consistent gas transit to these markets demonstrates Azerbaijan’s dedication to help uphold Europe’s commitment to energy security. The Azeri-Chirag-Gunashli (ACG) oil field in Azerbaijan, connected via the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) Pipeline to the Ceyhan terminal on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast, also guarantees the delivery of Azerbaijani crude oil to markets around the world, including Europe.

However, Azerbaijan’s oil diplomacy goes beyond only business considerations. Ms. Sadigbayli underlined the nation’s active participation in organizations for energy cooperation, like the Energy Charter Treaty and the European Energy Community, which has strengthened its standing as a trustworthy and accountable energy partner and cemented its place as a middle power. Furthermore, at the beginning of the pandemic, in December 2020, Azerbaijan was one of the first countries to convene a special session of the UN General Assembly in New York at the level of head of state, in response to the crisis brought on by Covid-19.

Mr. Sadigbayli remarked that since gaining independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has expanded its economy beyond oil and gas. The overall economic strength of the nation is significantly boosted by the contributions of other industries including manufacturing, agriculture, and services. Azerbaijan has the strongest army in the area and actively works to advance security and stability there.

Additionally, Ambassador Sadigbayli highlighted Azerbaijan’s active contribution to the East Caucasus region’s promotion of peace and security. The nation has actively participated in diplomatic efforts to promote cooperation in the Nagorno-Karabakh region throughout the years and has generously supported attempts to resolve disputes in that region.

As a predominantly Muslim country, Azerbaijan embraces secularism and its commitment to religious freedom. Its rich ethnic and religious milieu is a shining example of how various faiths and ethnic groups can coexist harmoniously. Aside from Russian Orthodox believers, Azerbaijan is also home to a vibrant Jewish community. In addition to having Russian Orthodox believers, Azerbaijan also has a thriving Jewish population. In order to present Azerbaijan as a significant participant in regional and global dialogues, the government actively promotes peace negotiations and places a strong focus on tolerance.

Finally, Ambassador Sadigbaily discussed Azerbaijan’s collaboration with Muslim nations and how this cooperation helps to solidify the country’s position as a potent connection between the East and the West. In addition to being a member of the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), a group of ten nations in Central Asia, the Caucasus, and the Middle East, Azerbaijan is also a member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the second-largest intergovernmental organization after the United Nations and composed of 57 states. The membership opens up many prospects for trade and investment with Islamic nations that benefit not just Azerbaijan alone, but many European nations by opening up new trade and investment opportunities.

LBS master’s students, academic colleagues, and visitors from the Azerbaijani consulate attended the event. Following his remarks, Ambassador Sadigbayli responded to inquiries from LBS students, helping them gain insight into the strategies and goals of Azerbaijan’s foreign policy.

Lauder Business School would like to extend its sincere appreciation to His Excellency, Ambassador Sadigbayli for his visit and insightful remarks.

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