New Pipeline To Loosen Russia's Grip On Energy
The UK Foreign Secretary William Hague is in Azerbaijan today at a ceremony to sign a £27.6bn pipeline deal which will provide another alternative to energy supplies from Russia to Europe.
The deal will make Britain the biggest foreign investor in the country.
BP is the lead shareholder in an international consortium to bring gas from the Caspian Sea into Italy, Bulgaria, Turkey, and Greece.
British officials do not openly admit that part of the strategy behind the Shah Deniz 2 deal is to loosen Russia's grip on energy supplies to Europe, but Mr Hague did hint at that in a speech in the capital Baku, telling Sky News: "Energy security is a major concern to much of Europe and this new gas corridor will bring a new supply of energy and will increase competition.
"With major involvement of BP and other British companies, it will also be a major boost to British companies and jobs."
Behind the statement lies the idea that countries west of Russia could become less beholden to Moscow for energy, and that Russian gas prices may have to come down due to this new route.
One source told Sky News: "Europe is too reliant on too few sources of gas and oil, this makes it vulnerable."
Human Rights campaigners have criticised the deal claiming it will boost Azerbaijan's President lham Aliyev who is accused of human rights abuses and of rigging elections.
In October a government phone app appeared to release the results of this year's Presidential election a day before the polls opened. It gave the President a landslide victory over his rival Jamil Hasanli.
According to the country's electoral commission it was a "technical glitch" and a "misunderstanding".
The manager of the company making the app told local media that the test result was data from the previous presidential election. Not everyone believed this and pointed out that Mr Hasanli had not then been standing for President.
Mr Aliyev duly won the election by a landslide.
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