Former British PM Tony Blair to advise on Azerbaijan gas project

Tony Blair

© APA | Tony Blair

# 03 April 2024 16:10 (UTC +04:00)

Tony Blair, the former British prime minister, has been hired to advise a BP-led consortium on the export of natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe, in a sign of the efforts now being made by western companies to reduce reliance on Russian supplies, APA reports citing the Financial Times.

Mr Blair will join former German foreign minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher and the chairman of Goldman Sachs International, Peter Sutherland – a former chairman of BP – on an advisory panel being set up by BP and its partners, a person close to the Azerbaijani project said.

BP is leading a consortium that is developing Shah Deniz 2, a huge natural gasfield in the Caspian Sea. Its gas will be shipped through a “southern energy corridor” made up of two pipelines – one called Tanap that will run the length of Türkiye, and another known as TAP stretching from Türkiye’s border with Greece across Albania to Italy.

With a cost of $45bn, the project has received strong backing from the EU, which sees it as a way of reducing Europe’s reliance on Russia – a priority that has taken on urgency in the wake of Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the sharp deterioration in relations between Moscow and Brussels that has ensued. Russia’s Gazprom supplies about 30 per cent of the EU’s gas.

BP said the Southern Corridor Advisory Panel will “advise on political, environmental, reputational and societal challenges that may be faced by the Shah Deniz 2, TANAP and TAP projects during their early years”.

Mr Blair has been hired for his political and business experience – especially in dealing with EU institutions – according to the person close to the Shah Deniz 2 project. Development of the project is likely to run in to a multitude of regulatory and environmental hurdles, as it involves seven countries.

BP said the panel was set up “voluntarily and jointly by all the Southern Corridor projects’ participants”. These include BP, Statoil and the Azerbaijani state oil company Socar, as well as the partners in the pipelines – companies such as Botas of Türkiye, Fluxys, Axpo and Eon. Mr Blair’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Mr Blair’s appointment underscores his growing role in the Caspian region, where he advised the authoritarian government of Kazakhstan on a “reform programme” from 2011 until last year.

The Financial Times reported last month that Mr Blair was also looking to open an office in Abu Dhabi, in an apparent attempt to drum up more Middle East business for his company, Tony Blair Associates. Mr Blair is an envoy for the Middle East Quartet: the UN, the EU, the US and Russia. He also juggles philanthropic activities linked to his Climate Group, Faith Foundation and Africa Governance Initiative. The former prime minister handles consulting work through Tony Blair Associates, whose clients have included JPMorgan Chase, the banking group, the government of Kuwait and Mubadala, an investment vehicle in Abu Dhabi.