After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom recognised the independence of Azerbaijan in December 1991, and supported Azerbaijan's participation in the Conference (now Organisation) for Security and Co-operation in Europe. Diplomatic Relations were re-established when the Hon Douglas Hogg MP, Minister of State in the FCO visited Baku on March 1992. The first British Ambassador was Sir Brian Fall, who was supported by a small British office in Baku. The first Resident Ambassador was Tom Young, who took up his post in 1993. The Embassy moved to its current premises in the Landmark II building in May 2003. The Azerbaijani Embassy in London opened in 1994.
The British Council manages on behalf of the UK government a Peacekeeping English Language programme for the Azerbaijani armed services in support of NATO’s Partnership for Peace and the Chevening scholarship programme which enables promising young Azerbaijani professionals to pursue postgraduate education in the UK.
The British Council began operations in Baku in March 1993. The Prime Minister at the time and Heydar Aliev signed an Agreement on Co-operation in the Fields of Education, Science and Culture during former-president Heydar Aliev's visit to London in February 1994.
The British Council’s objectives are to promote the UK as a partner in reform; strengthen the learning and use of English; demonstrate the UK’s creativity and diversity through arts and culture; and promote British educational excellence in support of professional development. Its programmes are primarily focussed on young Azerbaijanis’ under the age of 35, and delivered through local and multilateral partnerships.
The United Kingdom in Azerbaijan, 1918-20
In January 1918, a British expedition was sent from Baghdad to Baku to prevent Azerbaijan's valuable oilfields falling under the control of the Central Powers (Germany & the Ottoman Empire). Nicknamed the “Dunsterforce”, it was commanded by General Lionel Dunsterville. The Dunsterforce arrived in Baku in August 1918. After a short period of intense fighting (often called the “Battle for Baku”) the Dunsterforce withdrew to Persia in September 1918.
After the Armistice of Mudros ended hostilities between the Ottoman Empire and the Allies, a second British detachment arrived to oversee the return of Ottoman troops to Turkey. The British Military Mission remained in Baku until 1920, when the Bolshevik advance made it impossible for them to stay. During this time, de facto diplomatic relations existed between the Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan and the British Empire through the British High Commissioner in the Caucasus, Oliver Waldrop, who was based in Tbilisi. The British Military Mission, under General Thompson, played an important role in helping to establish stability in Azerbaijan during this difficult period.
Relations between Azerbaijan and the UK have been marked by a number of high-level visits
After the initial visit by the Hon Douglas Hogg MP in 1992, the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Malcolm Rifkind QC MP, visited in 1996. British Ministers have regularly come to the Caspian Oil and Gas Show www.caspianoilgas.co.uk.
Brian Wilson MP, then Minister for Energy, visited Baku in June 2003 to attend the Caspian Oil and Gas Show, an event he attended again in June 2004. His Royal Highness the Duke of York has visited Azerbaijan several times. He attended the 'First Oil' celebrations on 25 May 2005 and returned in 2006 to mark the completion of the BTC pipeline and again in September 2007.
The Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons visited in June 2007. Malcolm Wicks MP, Minister of State for Energy visited Azerbaijan in September 2007. Jim Murphy MP, Minister for Europe, visited Azerbaijani in May 2008. The most recent visit was that of Lord Digby Jones, the UK’s Minister for Trade. Lord Digby Jones visited Azerbaijan in June 2008.
Former President Heydar Aliyev visited the UK as a Guest of Government from 19-24 July 1998. During the visit he had an audience with Her Majesty The Queen and talks with the Prime Minister at Downing Street, after which a political declaration was signed. Three major commercial agreements were also signed after this meeting, witnessed by the Prime Minister and Heydar Aliyev, between SOCAR (the State Oil Company) and BP, RAMCO and Monument Oil and Gas.
President Ilham Aliyev paid an official visit to the UK as a Guest of the British Government from 13-14 December 2004. He met the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Defence Secretary. The Prime Minister and the President reaffirmed the Joint Declaration on Friendship and Co-operation signed in 1998. They expressed their support for further expansion of bilateral relations in support of the development in Azerbaijan of a market economy and multi-party democracy based on the rule of law and promotion of human rights and liberties. During the visit, the Prime Minister and President Aliyev issued a Joint Communique outlining the basis and future direction of the bilateral relationship.
The Director of the State Oil Fund of Azerbaijan, Samir Sharifov (subsequently appointed Minister of Finance in 2006), attended the second international conference on the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in London on 17 March 2005.
Kamelladin Heydarov, Minister for Emergency Situations paid an official visit to London in October 2007. Albufaz Garayev, Minister for culture, visited London in February 2008.