Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Sixth Report


The Foreign Affairs Committee has agreed to the following Report:—



1. The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 suddenly presented the world with a patchwork of newly independent states. Many of them were little known in the West, where political leaders began to recognise that major reserves of natural resources and important strategic assets were in the hands, not of Moscow, but of largely unknown government personnel in distant capital cities which, because of restrictive Soviet policies, western diplomats had seldom visited. The area covered by this Report is the South Caucasus and Central Asia. Concerns about regional security, a desire to support the improvement of standards of governance, human rights and economic performance, and the possibilities for British business, particularly in the energy market, have made the region a potentially important one for the United Kingdom.

2. The Committee undertook this present inquiry to examine the extent to which British interests in the area were indeed important, and whether the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) response to the potential was adequate. We took as our terms of reference:

The countries of the region with which we are concerned are Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The area can be divided into two sub-regions: the South Caucasus, consisting of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia; and Central Asia, consisting of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. We print maps of the two sub-regions at the front of this Report.

3. The Committee took oral evidence on three occasions. On 23 March 1999, we first heard Mr Tim Hannan of the University of Leeds, Dr Edmund Herzig of the University of Manchester and Mr Anthony Hyman, Associate Editor of Central Asia Survey. We then heard Mr Dennis Sammut of the London Information Network on Conflicts and State-Building (LINKS), Ms Sue Elliott and Mr Jonathan Goodhand of the International Non-Governmental Organisation Training and Research Centre (INTRAC) and Mr Cecil Ballantine and Ms Maisy Weicherding of Amnesty International UK. Our second set of oral witnesses appeared on 13 April, and represented commercial organisations with an interest in the area. They were Mr Frank Chapman of BG plc; Mr Graham Barr and Mr Dave Russell of BP Amoco plc; Mr Terry Adams of Monument Oil and Gas plc; Mr Nigel Meredith Jones of A Meredith Jones and Co Ltd; Sir Derek Thomas of N M Rothschild and Sons Ltd, and Mr Nigel Peters of the British Consultants Bureau. Finally, we heard on 25 May from the Minister in the FCO responsible for the region, Rt Hon Joyce Quin MP and two of her officials—Ms Anne Pringle and Mr Edward Webb. A large number of written memoranda were also received.[2] We express our gratitude to all our witnesses for the enormous help they gave us in this inquiry.

4. We also visited all the countries of the region with the exception of Tajikistan where the FCO advises against travel for security reasons. In early May, separate groups travelled to Armenia and Georgia, and to Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic and Uzbekistan. In mid June, another group travelled to Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Full details of those whom the members of the Committee met are set out in Annex I. We are very grateful to the British Embassies in each country for the excellent assistance which they gave to us, and to the Governments concerned for the facilities which they extended.

5. The Committee was also greatly helped by the advice of Mr Paul Bergne OBE, a long-standing specialist in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Ambassador to Uzbekistan from 1993-95 and Tajikistan from 1994-95, and currently associated with St Antony's College, Oxford. We are most grateful to him.

1   We originally referred to the South Caucasus as the Transcaucasus, but changed the terminology to reflect regional sensitivities. Back

2   These are listed at p. lxxxix-xc. Back

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Prepared 27 July 1999