French Senate's anti-Azerbaijani move backfires
    “A sacred space is never empty”

    ANALYTICS  22 June 2024 - 14:46

    The French Senate's Research Commission has presented a report to the government regarding the activities of the French giant Total Energies, recommending, among other things, to cease investments by this company in Azerbaijan's oil and gas sector. According to French media reports, Total Energies' activities were considered in the context of combating global climate change. It's a striking hypocrisy when you consider that Azerbaijan will host the upcoming UN climate conference (COP29) in November.

    Moreover, as part of the preparations for COP29, the 29th High-Level Meeting on "Path to COP29: Sustainable and Resilient Future" started in Baku on June 19, focusing on global climate change. "If we want to succeed in combating climate change, we must be able to express our ideas at international forums and at a high level. Azerbaijan has taken on very important work to ensure a clean, green future for future generations," said former Bulgarian President Rosen Plevneliev.

    There is no doubt that these recommendations, under the guise of environmental issues, are aimed against Baku. One doesn't need to be an outstanding analyst to understand the true motives of the French. After all, we all remember whose sister Macron is. Therefore, the position of the French Senate's research commission is deceitful and hypocritical. There are no real reasons for this decision other than political ones. Indeed, the report contains a total of 33 recommendations. In particular, it states that France should demonstrate more innovative approaches than other EU countries and immediately cease the import of Russian liquefied natural gas. Yes, Macron's France, which pays lip service to condemning Russia but not as decisively as it could, and is providing arms assistance to Ukraine, still continues to import Russian liquefied natural gas!

    Yes, Macron's France, which pays lip service to condemning Russia but not as decisively as it could, and is providing arms assistance to Ukraine, still continues to import Russian liquefied natural gas! This contradiction is stark—Total Energies imports gas from Siberian fields, a fact that echoes the historical tendency of French politicians to navigate complex geopolitical landscapes. Macron himself, notably, initially maintained a cautious stance following the onset of the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, even advocating for consideration of Russia's position. These details serve to underscore the hypocrisy of both Emmanuel Macron and the French Senate.

    Furthermore, amidst the broader context, the European Commission has already agreed upon a comprehensive fourteenth package of sanctions against Russia, which includes measures targeting the import of liquefied gas. Thus, the French Senate appears to be attempting to mitigate reputational fallout by projecting a positive facade while ostensibly condemning Russia, continuing to purchase its liquefied gas.

    Moreover, and here lies the crux of the matter, a straightforward question arises: why is Azerbaijan being targeted when France does not even import liquefied gas from Azerbaijan?! French senators have no credible answer to this question; they are merely fulfilling a political agenda. It's well-established that the French Senate is notorious for adopting the most disparaging anti-Azerbaijani resolutions. Indeed, it was in this very place that the resolution recognizing the "independence" of the ultimately dissolved the so-called "Nagorno Karabakh Republic” was adopted.

    And now, in the report of the French Senate presented to the government of the Fifth Republic, there is also a call to "halt new projects or new stages of current projects involving French companies in Azerbaijan's hydrocarbon sector." Seriously?! Let me remind you of something. For instance, at the end of December last year, the President of the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), Rovshan Najaf, met with the First Vice President of Total Energies for Exploration & Production in the European Region, Jean-Luc Guiziou.

    At that time, both parties expressed satisfaction with their long-term fruitful cooperation, including the completion of the primary production phase of the Absheron gas condensate field development scheme. Moreover, they discussed comprehensive development plans for the Absheron field and activities under the cooperation agreement between Total Energies and SOCAR on "Implementation of methane detection and measurement campaigns using drones." They also exchanged views on expanding cooperation opportunities in oil and gas, green energy, decarbonization, and other mutually interesting issues.

    To recall, at the end of August last year, President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan met with Patrick Pouyanné, the CEO of Total Energies. It's noteworthy that this meeting took place amidst another round of France's overtly anti-Azerbaijani actions. Specifically, France raised the issue of adopting an anti-Azerbaijani resolution at the UN Security Council. It was against this backdrop that the head of the state met with the CEO of Total Energies, demonstrating clearly that Baku knows how to separate politics from economics.

    It's important to highlight Baku's mature and strategically thoughtful policy, which is never oriented towards short-term results. Despite France's current policies, Azerbaijan could have long ago asked Total Energies to leave. However, we understand that the situation in France can change at any moment, and political figures like Macron are not eternal. Moreover, many prominent French businessmen themselves recognize the short-sightedness of such policies, and discussions on this matter may have taken place during meetings with the Azerbaijani side.

    It's enough to recall that Azerbaijan and Total Energies have been collaborating in energy projects for nearly thirty years. Let’s recall that Total Energies holds a 35% stake in the Absheron gas field in the Caspian Sea. The first gas from this gas condensate field, located approximately 100 kilometres southeast of Baku, was extracted in early July 2023. Initial gas reserves at this field are estimated at 350-360 billion cubic meters, with condensate reserves at 45 million tons.

    Initially, the ownership stakes in the Absheron project were distributed as follows: Total, as the operator, held 50%, and SOCAR held 50%. In August 2023, the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company from the United Arab Emirates acquired a 30% stake, while Total and SOCAR retained 35% each.

    Thus, there is a substantial history of mutually beneficial cooperation between Azerbaijan and Total Energies. But who is trying to cast doubt on this cooperation? Right, it is once again the French Senate.

    Yes, it's the same Senate that has previously acted against the national interests of France by adopting blatantly anti-Azerbaijani resolutions, which ultimately turned out to be worthless pieces of paper. In this specific case, I'll share a brief comment from Ilham Shaban, the head of the Center for Oil Studies: "No place stays empty for long. ADNOC, the oil and gas giant from the UAE, will gladly take Total Energies' place. It is the second-largest company in the Arab world after Saudi Aramco and possesses the financial and technological capabilities to replace Total Energies in our country," asserts Shaban.

    In the grand scheme of things, Azerbaijan largely remains unaffected by the Senate's recommendations. Truly, no place stays empty for long. Therefore, from the French side, this will be nothing but shooting themselves in the foot.

    By Akbar Hasanov


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