THE UNITED KINGDOM'S INTERESTS
6. Over the past eight years British interests in
the South Caucasus and Central Asia have developed and clarified,
and the FCO has gradually increased its presence in the region.
The FCO identifies present key British objectives as:
" to support
the independence, security and territorial integrity of the states
of the region;
to encourage progress towards
democratic and economic reform;
to help secure substantial
business for British companies;
to contribute to the resolution
of conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and
to press for greater respect
for international standards of human rights;
to seek co-operation to control
the trade in drugs."
7. These were very much the same points identified
by a number of our witnesses, whose identification of United Kingdom
interests fell into four main areas:
maintenance of regional security;
the integration of the states
of the region with multilateral organisations and with the international
community in general;
the development of the region's
economic and commercial potential;
the promotion of internationally
accepted standards of human rights and good governance.
In a number of these areas the interests of the United
Kingdom and the West in general are identical and are pursued
as such. In certain aspects of regional policy, however, there
are significant differences between the policy of the United States
and the overall aims of the EU and its Member States. In the commercial
sphere it is generally accepted that the national interest prevails.
We assess the United Kingdom's interests in the region in more
detail in the sections below.
8. Many of our witnesses stressed to us the great
strategic significance of the region to the West in general. Dr
Edmund Herzig said that "all of the developed economies of
the West, including Japan" had a "very large set of
common interests" in the region: they "also perceive
a very strong interest, both ideological and material, in that
peace and stability are needed for commercial engagement."
Dr Neil Melvin of the University of Leeds argued that in the future
the states of Central Asia would play an important role "as
supplier of energy resources to the global economy": he also
alluded to "serious implications" for the United Kingdom
and for the West in general from Central Asian instability and
its consequences for the complex geopolitics of the region.
Dr John Anderson of the University of St Andrews said that "investment
and economic ties depend to a considerable degree on political
Jonathan Cohen, of Conciliation Resources, told us that Western
interests in general, and British interests in particular, fell
into the following areas: the development of democracy and human
rights, the promotion of economic reform, the incorporation of
the states of the region into the Euro-Atlantic and international
structures and the promotion of "responsible security policies."
9. A number of witnesses also stressed to us the
importance of taking a considered view of the region's development
which was not necessarily based on a narrow national or strategic
interest. Dr Melvin believed that the Government should be prepared
to make long-term commitments to the development of genuinely
free and democratic societies in the region, in order to reap
the benefits of continued stability.
Jonathan Cohen argued that real stability was attainable by focussing
on the needs of the countries of the region themselves, rather
than setting the region purely in the context of an external Western
interest. He believed that the international community should
not "resort to slogans advocating democratisation, human
rights and transparent elections, only to subordinate these to
"strategic goals" be they in regard to the extraction
and transportation of oil, or the containment of Russia."
Dr Herzig warned against specifically British national interests
being allowed to prevail over a common Western approach to the
Dennis Sammut was concerned that the United Kingdom's policy towards
the Caucasus would be adversely influenced by a need to take Russian
sensitivities into account.
10. In a number of areas the United Kingdom's specific
role, and its national interests, have been co-ordinated with
those of its EU partners. The memorandum submitted to us by DG
IA of the European Commission set out the Commission's view of
the European Union's interests in the region. These may be summarised
of closer trading and political contacts;
the maintenance of regional security;
support for efforts to end regional
reduction of the region's physical,
economic and political remoteness from Europe;
the improvement of its business
the development of access to energy
and other raw materials.
The Commission considers the European Union to be
a "significant actor" in the region as its "single
most important potential market outside the CIS" and a "very
important supplier of the capital, know-how, goods and services
[the countries of the region] require to realise their potential."
EU strategies have sought to provide frameworks to integrate all
countries of the region into political and economic structures.
11. This co-ordination of national interests, when
judiciously applied in specific circumstances, may serve to magnify
the United Kingdom's impact in the region and assist in the furthering
of the British national interest. This appears to be the case
where regional strategy is concerned, where the United Kingdom
and the EU have interests which diverge from those of the US.
Washington is deeply hostile to any extension of Iranian influence
in the region, while the EU and the United Kingdom have recently
adopted policies of constructive engagement towards Iran in order
to encourage progressive forces within the Iranian government.
The United States is actively pursuing policies on a number of
regional issues, such as the routing of pipelines, which have
the capacity to affect EU and United Kingdom interests adversely
and may make exploitation of local resources uneconomic. We discuss
the implications for British commercial interests of United States
policy towards Iran. Mr Terry Adams, of Monument Oil and Gas,
believed that a pragmatic EU and United Kingdom approach to Iran
was necessary "to counteract some of the more strident policies
of the US in the Caucasus".
The European Commission told us that "it is in the EU's interest
to ensure that its voice is heard in matters concerning extraction,
pipeline routes and on related issues, e.g. jurisdiction
in the Caspian Sea."
12. While the co-ordination of policies and interests
may in a number of respects be helpful to the United Kingdom,
there are clearly areas where national interest will prevail over
any attempt to set a common EU line. In purely commercial terms,
for instance, the United Kingdom has only limited interests in
common with its European and other Western partners. Mr Nigel
Peters, of the British Consultants Bureau, told us that clients
of the Bureau seeking consultancy work in the region were, for
example, in "direct and bitter competition with the French
and the Germans".
Dr Herzig told us that whereas it was beneficial for there to
be inter-state co-operation on developing better commercial environments:
"when it comes to promoting
British commercial interests we are natural competitors above
all with our developed Western partners because we tend to have
the same kinds of businesses and are pursuing the same kinds of
commercial opportunities in the region."
Mr Terry Adams told us that the United Kingdom had
assumed a definite role in the Caspian Basin by virtue of its
"historical traditions" and the early post-independence
involvement in the region of British companies.
We found that many countries of the region perceived a special
role for the United Kingdom as a country with global influence
and prestige and with the asset of a permanent seat on the Security
Council of the United Nations. These factors are of long-term
benefit and significance to the United Kingdom.
3 Evidence p. 79. Back
Appendix 7, Evidence p. 130. Back
Appendix 5, Evidence p. 122. Back
Appendix 12, Evidence p. 157. Back
Appendix 7, Evidence p. 130. Back
Appendix 12, Evidence p. 158. Back
Evidence p. 4 and Q4. Back
Evidence p. 25. Back
Appendix 33, Evidence pp. 202-03. Back
Appendix 33, Evidence p. 202. Back
See below, paragraphs 98-101. Back
Appendix 33, Evidence p. 202. Back