The Foreign Affairs Committee has agreed to the
SOUTH CAUCASUS AND CENTRAL ASIA
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
"To inquire into the
FCO's role in promoting British interests in, and relations with,
countries of the South Caucasus and Central Asia."
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
officialsMs Anne Pringle and Mr Edward Webb. A large number
of written memoranda were also received.
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
These are listed at p. lxxxix-xc. Back