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Uzbek President Urges: Engage With Afghanistan at Tashkent Conference

Uzbek President Urges: Engage With Afghanistan at Tashkent Conference

July 28, 2022 (EIRNS)—A July 26-27 conference in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, brought together 100 delegations representing 30 countries, to discuss the current situation in Afghanistan and prospects for future development. The conference was convened by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who has taken the lead in urging the international community to help stabilize Afghanistan economically and politically.

The members of the Afghan delegation who attended, led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, were reportedly upbeat and came with a message that their government had taken certain steps to comply with international requirements and that they now required Western investment. In this context they called for the U.S. and its Western allies to unfreeze the $9 billion in funds that were illegally seized from Afghanistan’s Central Bank in August of 2021 after the Taliban took power. Russia’s representative, Zamir Kubilov, called the West’s seizure of those funds “outright robbery,” TASS reported.

One proposal that is reportedly being discussed by U.S. and Swiss officials, and which has a bad stench to it, is the idea of setting up a special trust fund with the seized assets that would be managed by an international board—out of the control of the Afghan government. It would be modeled on the World Bank’s corrupt Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, which threw around money on failed projects that did nothing to improve the lives of Afghan citizens, keeping the old, rotten structures in place. A careful investigation of this proposal is in order.

Speaking on behalf of President Mirziyoyev, presidential envoy Abdulaziz Kamilov delivered a forceful message. He warned that the international isolation of Afghanistan “shall inevitably lead to further deterioration of the humanitarian situation. It is important not to allow this, since the fate of millions is at stake.” The Afghan government has taken certain steps to improve the socioeconomic situation and establish friendly relations with neighboring countries and mutually-beneficial cooperation with the international community. “We must foster this and endorse these efforts,” Mirziyoyev said, while at the same time insisting that the international community’s conditions for formal diplomatic recognition—an inclusive government representing all layers of society with full respect for human rights–be met.


SCO Foreign Ministers Debate Regional Challenges, Expanded Membership

Sept. 28, 2022 (EIRNS)—Foreign Ministers of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) wrapped up their two-day meeting in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, today having discussed the agenda for the Sept. 15-16 summit of the group’s heads of state and touched on several other topics of regional and international importance—the war in Ukraine, the Afghan situation, food and energy security, the threat of global recession, and the need to cooperate on regional issues, including on projects that are part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Given the increasingly complex international situation, the ministers stressed the importance of safeguarding regional security and stability.

One expert cited by Global Times noted the attractiveness of the SCO to many neighboring countries, given its emphasis on cooperation and regional development. Members also discussed ongoing cooperation for SCO expansion. Belarus’s application for full membership was discussed according to BeLTA news agency. SCO Secretary General Zhang Ming reported that the SCO has received 11 applications to join the organization in one or another capacity, or to upgrade existing status. He mentioned that at the Sept. 15-16 heads-of-state summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, “we expect the SCO heads of state to adopt a memorandum of obligations for the Islamic Republic of Iran to receive SCO membership.”

It was stressed that SCO expansion is not a response to NATO expansion but rather related to SCO’s focus on regional cooperation rather than confrontation. 

 On the sidelines of the conference, there were several bilateral meetings, including one between China’s Wang Yi and Russia’s Sergey Lavrov. A meeting between Wang and Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar had been mooted but it’s not clear whether it took place, given tensions between those two nations. Jaishankar did meet with Lavrov. Wang also met with Uzbek Acting Foreign Minister Norov Vladimir Imamovich to stress their excellent relationship and Imamovich’s commitment to Uzbek development and revitalization.

Lavrov and Wang had a substantive discussion, TASS reported, stressing, among other things, the SCO’s leading role “in building a regional security architecture and its constructive contribution to the process of maintaining peace and stability and ensuring economic development in Eurasia,” according to a statement from the Russian Foreign Ministry. Ministers from all eight member countries attended the summit: China, Russia, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan. Currently Belarus, Afghanistan, Iran, and Mongolia are observer nations. Dialogue partners are Azerbaijan, Armenia, Cambodia, Nepal, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.


Iran-Kyrgyzstan Rail Corridor Discussed

Sept. 25 (EIRNS)–During a meeting on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly this week in New York, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Kazakbaev congratulated Amir-Abdollahian on his appointment as Iran’s top diplomat, and proposed a direct flight between Bishkek and Tehran. Kazakbaev also expressed willingness to use the Iranian port city of Bandar Abbas’s capacity for transit cooperation.

The Kyrgyz Foreign Minister said his country’s internal conditions are better than ever for the presence of Iranian economic activists, calling for the two countries to work together on cooperation within the framework of the Eurasian Economic Union. He also said Kyrgyzstan is ready to cooperate in the construction of a railway corridor between the two countries.

The Iranian government has already proposed some time ago to Central Asians, the value of making effective use of Iranian ports and the development of the Uzbek-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman transport corridor. This could connect to the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway line being built, as well as to the Uzbekistan-Afghanistan-Iran corridor. A part of this latter project, there are connections for the Afghan cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat with the Iranian port of Chabahar. 


SCO Opens in Tajikistan: Pakistan’s Imran Khan Calls for Replacing Geo-politics With Geo-economics

SCO Opens in Tajikistan: Pakistan’s Imran Khan Calls for Replacing Geo-politics With Geo-economics

Sept. 16, 2021 (EIRNS)—The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is convening at the head-of-state level in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, with the crisis in Afghanistan the major immediate challenge to their 20-year mission. The eight SCO countries—China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan—become nine with full membership granted to Iran. (Afghanistan, Belarus, and Mongolia are “Observer States”; Armenia, Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Turkey are “Dialogue Partners.”)

Early reports indicate multiple “sideline” meetings of the leaders of various countries. In particular, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan was quite busy on Thursday, meeting on the sidelines with Belarus’s President Alexander Lukashenko, Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi and Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. He had a more extensive bilateral meeting with Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on “trade, investment and transportation links.”

He had been welcomed at Dushanbe’s airport by Tajikistan’s President Emomali Rahmon. According to the statement released by the Pakistani government, he described an upgrading of the two countries’ engagement—what he termed his “Vision Central Asia” policy—and emphasized connectivity and Pakistan’s “pivotal position in providing the shortest access route to the sea.” His key example of connectivity was the Trans-Afghan railway project connecting Termez/Mazar-e-Sharif/Kabul/Jalalabad/Peshawar. His statement repeated the need to transform from “geo-politics” to “geo-economics.”

He also addressed the new Pakistan-Tajikistan Business Forum on expanding the “minuscule” $80 million of trade. He declared that Pakistan would expedite work on the CASA-1000 power transmission line to benefit from “your clean and cheap energy [such as] hydroelectricity”, too much lacking in Pakistan. Otherwise, he stated that he would work with President Rahmon to stabilize Afghanistan: “We will be doing our best to make sure they get together and there is an inclusive government.”


Central Asian Heads of State Meet in Turkmenistan on Energy, Transit Corridors and Fighting the Pandemic

Central Asian Heads of State Meet in Turkmenistan on Energy, Transit Corridors and Fighting the Pandemic

Aug. 6 (EIRNS)–Today the Third Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia was held in Turkmenistan, at the Caspian Sea resort town of Avaza, bringing together the presidents of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrghizstan, plus others including Natalia Gherman, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Central Asia. There were many parallel sessions, including the Economic Forum of the Central Asian Nations.

Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said during his speech, “Based on UN documents, we are moving towards the formation in Central Asia of favorable political-legal and economic conditions for a safe, sustainable energy partnership focused on meeting regional energy demand and on accessing world markets through international transit corridors.” Another focus was collaboration against the COVID-19 pandemic. Including furthering joint research on mutations, as well as methods of treatment and prevention of infectious diseases. The heads of state issued a statement.


Afghanistan: the Role of the Neighboring Countries in Development

Afghanistan: the Role of the Neighboring Countries in Development

Aug. 5, 2021 (EIRNS) – During a Schiller Institute conference July 31, Prof. Pino Arlacchi, the former head of the United Nations Office of Drug Control who negotiated near-elimination of Afghan opium production with the Taliban 20 years ago, noted that immediately neighboring countries should play a primary role in planning South Asian regional development to include Afghanistan, and in stopping drug traffic from that country. One country clearly taking the point for this kind of development is Uzbekistan, under President Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

A July 31 article in EastAsiaForum.org by Nasriddinov Salokhiddin, a researcher at the Institute for International Security of Tokyo International University, calls the February 2021 conference with Pakistan and Afghanistan organized by Mirziyoyev, “the event of the century for Central Asia”, because it will connect landlocked Central Asian countries to the Indian Ocean through Afghanistan and Pakistan. The conference attendees decided on a 600-kilometer Tashkent-Mazar e-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railroad and requested $4.8 billion in World Bank funding for it, Apparently the railroad corridor project was planned from the first to include new electricity transmission lines through it.

Noting the criticism that surmounting the Hindu Kush Mountains will make the project very expensive, Salokhiddin wrote: “Uzbekistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan filed an appeal for investment to international financial institutions, which [appeal] received support from the United States, China and Russia. Representatives of the World Bank, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Asian Development Bank and the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank also expressed their willingness to assist the project through technical consulting and financing. Such wide support for the project means that the source of investment is no longer a concern.” He did not give dates or details regarding these other nations’ and international institutions’ support. He did add that the route transits Afghanistan through regions and cities which are under relatively secure government control now.

The author wrote that freight traffic in Afghanistan was about 4 million tons for 2020 and had risen by 25%. “Estimates suggest that if implemented, the trans-Afghan railroad will increase annual volume of rail freight by 20 million tons.” Some economists in Uzbekistan have advocated a railroad corridor to Chabahar in Iran instead, as allegedly more secure. But, “To achieve its economic objectives, access to the ports of Karachi and Gwadar is Uzbekistan’s highest priority.” Full article is here.


28 Nations Participate in China’s Belt and Road Partnership on COVID Vaccines Cooperation

August 3, 2021 (EIRNS)—On June 23 of this year, at the Asia and Pacific High-Level Conference on Belt and Road Cooperation, presided over by China’s State Councilor and Foreign Minister, Wang Yi, 28 nations joined in launching the China Initiative for Belt and Road Partnership on Covid-19 Vaccine Cooperation. The statement announcing this initiative stressed that international cooperation and solidarity are key to fighting the pandemic, that “people and their lives” must be put first, and that no one is safe until everyone is safe. It emphasized that vaccines must be equitably distributed and that there must be “open, fair and non-discriminatory international cooperation on vaccines.”

A number of other recommendations for the BRI vaccine cooperation initiative included facilitating joint vaccine research, development and technological exchanges; promoting partnerships between vaccine producers and developing countries for joint vaccine production, to scale up global production; encouraging regional and multilateral development banks to provide more concessional financing to developing countries for their vaccine procurement and production; and “strengthening Belt and Road cooperation on connectivity to ensure cross-border flows of vaccines.”

According to the Chinese Foreign Ministry yesterday, in less than two months the BRI vaccine initiative has yielded impressive results, reaching cooperative agreements with several of the initiative’s 28 co-sponsors on a total of 775 million doses of vaccines, including in the form of concentrates, of which 350 million doses have been delivered. In addition, Chinese companies have started joint production with four co-sponsors of this initiative, whose names were not specified, and are discussing joint production “with other interested countries.” In today’s foreign ministry press conference, spokesman Wang Wenbin reported that China has provided vaccine assistance to over 80 countries and vaccines to 40 countries, also reporting that China is collaborating with other developing nations to mass produce the vaccine. It was also announced today that the World Health Organization has granted emergency use authorization to China’s Sinovac vaccine. (The full initiative statement is detailed here.)

The 28 countries include: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Chile, China, Colombia, Fiji, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Tajikistan, Thailand, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.


Uzbek President Evokes Central and South Asia’s Historic Contributions to Humanity to Spur Its Development Today

Uzbek President Evokes Central and South Asia’s Historic Contributions to Humanity to Spur Its Development Today

July 27, 2021 (EIRNS)—Addressing the July 15th-16th Central and South Asia Regional Connectivity conference in Tashkent, which his government organized, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev proposed that this region of almost two billion people conceive of its development today as a return to its role as a historic center of “active dialogue between peoples and civilizations … the crossroads of the Great Silk Road, Central and South Asia.”

No official translation of the speech into English is available yet, but the machine-translation of it quoted here, while not precise, captures the spirit of his call. He invoked names that every schoolchild on the globe should be familiar with some day.

Miziyoyev spoke of the great civilizations which arose in this region, going back as early as the third and second millennia BC, which “have left a deep mark on human history.” He reminded his audience, that “thanks to the spread of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and the unique traditions of different peoples in Central and South Asia, a great ethnocultural commonality has been established, and a rich and colorful culture of the East has been formed.”

The resulting strong ties between our peoples “ensured rapid intellectual and enlightenment growth… which brought to the world many more mature scholars and thinkers, such as Charaka and Sushruta, Brahmagupta and Al-Khwarizmi, Al-Farghani and Al-Farabi, Al-Beruni, Ibn Sina. They marked the development of human science and philosophical thought centuries ago,” he said. He then named some of the region’s outstanding representatives of literature who “with their immortal works … have made a great contribution to the development of the principles of peace, freedom and humanity, the ideas of friendship and mutual trust among the peoples of the world.”

“Unfortunately,” he added, “due to the historical situation, in the nineteenth century, the relations between the two neighboring regions were severed,” creating barriers between Central and South Asia. The end of that era of cooperation and mutual understanding is responsible for “the current lack of effective cross-border routes, poor development of trade and economic relations, as well as the underutilization of cultural and humanitarian relations.”

“It is time to harmonize the existing intellectual potential and our joint efforts, given the great historical, scientific, cultural and educational heritage of our peoples and the ability of our economies to complement each other,” he urged. “We are convinced that interdependence, cooperation, dialogue and, most importantly, the consistent and sustainable development of trust, will become a driving force for increasing the living standards and prosperity of the people of our regions.”

It was within that context, then, that he proposed specific ideas for regional cooperation, centered on logistics infrastructure and rail lines, and within that, aiding Afghanistan to find peace at this “important turning point in its recent history.”


Mr. Jackson
@mrjackson