Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov: Today, in foreign policy, Uzbekistan is open to the world and demonstrates clear political realism and pragmatism
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The newspaper “The Times Kuwait” published an exclusive interview with Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov to the Times Kuwait Managing Editor Reaven D’Souza under the headline “Uzbekistan builds peace and prosperity through a renewed foreign policy”, reports “Dunyo” IA correspondent.
We present to your attention the full text of this interview.
“Minister Kamilov, a seasoned diplomat with nearly 50 years of experience shared his deep insights, in his first-ever interview with an English publication from Kuwait.
Ensuring a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict, stabilizing Afghanistan, and building pragmatic relations with its southern neighbor are among the most important tasks of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy.
Uzbekistan and Kuwait regularly come out with mutual support for the initiatives of the parties as a part of the international organizations. In recent years, our relations have acquired a special dynamism. Tashkent and Kuwait maintain an active political dialogue.
The desire for dialogue and the readiness for reasonable compromises in addressing any challenges are important principles of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy.
We began by asking the distinguished minister about the noticeable increase in interest among the world community to Uzbekistan and to the Central Asian region, where profound democratic changes are taking place. Also, since the strategic reforms initiated by President Shavkat Mirziyoyev have influenced the foreign policy priorities of Uzbekistan, could he reveal these priorities for us?
Minister Kamilov: “First of all, I would like to say that it is a sincere pleasure for me to communicate with the Kuwaiti media and your audience. You are right, the deep structural reforms have had a serious impact on the country’s foreign policy and international position.
“Today, in foreign policy, the Republic of Uzbekistan is open to the world and demonstrates clear political realism and pragmatism. We firmly intend to build friendly and mutually beneficial relations with all the states based on respect for the interests of each other, the search for common or concurring interests.
“The desire for dialogue and the readiness for reasonable compromises in addressing any challenges are important principles of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy.
First of all, these principles have positively influenced the regional policy of Tashkent. Central Asia is one of the key directions of our country’s foreign policy, as Uzbekistan’s security and sustainable development are directly linked to the surrounding region.
“As President Mirziyoyev puts it, ‘we clearly realize that Central Asia is a single organism, which for centuries had a common geographical, economic and cultural space.’ So the first priority of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy is to strengthen relations with neighboring states to address the issues of delimitation and demarcation of state borders, rational use of water resources.
“Another priority for Uzbekistan is the progressive development of strategic relations with all major powers and a wide range of states of the world. We conduct a multi-vector foreign policy aimed at creating a stable regional system and sustainable international relations based on universally recognized principles and norms of international law.
“We attach an important significance to the development of the mutually beneficial and multifaceted strategic partnership with Russia, the United States, China and other countries of the Asia-Pacific Region, the European Union and, certainly, with the states of the Arab-Muslim world that are close to us in history, religion and trad“An important area of economic diplomacy has become the intensification of contacts with the world business community. Nowadays, the ‘New Uzbekistan’ expression has gained a foothold in the world community. This is a recognition that our country has entered a new stage of development by prioritizing a renewed foreign policy.”
We then asked the minister about his views on the increasing regional interest in the dynamic, even cardinal changes taking place in the Central Asian region, which the Arab-Muslim world has since ancient times seen as an important aspect in the system of international development.
Minister Kamilov: “Indeed, Central Asia has undergone significant changes since 2016. The rapprochement with neighboring states, as well as a joint search for solutions to region-wide problems, has created an absolutely new positive political environment. It is characterized by the strengthening of cooperation between Uzbekistan and all Central Asian countries.
“The trade turnover and the number of joint ventures of Uzbekistan with the Central Asian States has increased. Significant changes are observed not only in the statistics of economic cooperation, but also in everyday life. The borders have been opened and visa issues have been resolved. The citizens of neighboring countries are now moving freely from one country to another, restoring previously severed ties with their neighbors and relatives. The cultural and humanitarian ties have also been restored.
“Another entirely new process is the beginning of joint interaction of the Central Asian states in the international arena. Yet another key indicator of the new situation in the region is the mechanism of Consultative Meetings of the leaders of the Central Asian States created at the initiative of Uzbekistan.
“It should be emphasized that President Mirziyoyev played a major role in the formation of a new political philosophy of cooperation and good neighborliness in Central Asia. The idea of a common history and common future of the Central Asian countries put forward by the Head of Uzbekistan may become a relevant topic for study in scientific and academic circles.
“In general, I can say that the political will and initiatives of the leaders of the region’s five states became a main driving force behind the historic turnaround in our region. It is a historical fact.
“I take this opportunity to note that Tashkent will continue to strengthen the political climate of understanding and respect, good-neighborliness and strategic partnership in the Central Asian region. In our opinion, the achievements of the last five years in Central Asia, no matter how important they are, are only the beginning of a difficult but vital path towards the forefront of development of our region and turning it into a single space of security, mutually beneficial cooperation and shared prosperity.
“As President Mirziyoyev has noted at the Third Consultative Meeting of the Central Asian Leaders in Turkmenistan on August 6 this year: “Only together and supporting one another can we effectively address the challenges we face, ensure the region’s sustainable development and increase the well-being of our peoples. There is no alternative way’.”
On recent happenings in neighboring Afghanistan and the special role played by Tashkent, as well as based on his own personal participation in the processes related to the Afghan settlement, we asked the minister about Uzbekistan’s position on the solution to the problem of Afghanistan and his opinion on the current situation in this country.
Minister Kamilov: “Ensuring a peaceful settlement of the Afghan conflict, stabilizing Afghanistan and building pragmatic relations with its southern neighbor are among the most important tasks of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy. In this process, we have accumulated a great deal of practical experience.
“We were among the first to establish working contacts with the Taliban back in the 1990s, as well as made a practical contribution to initiating the peace process in Doha. All this provided Uzbekistan with a special role in the Afghan settlement.
I will not dwell on the current situation in Afghanistan, as the entire international community knows how complex processes are taking place in this country today.
“Let me just say that our region’s security and sustainable development largely depend on the situation in Afghanistan. This country has historically been an integral part of Central Asia. We have lived side by side with the Afghan people in a single vast cultural and civilizational space for centuries.
“The results of the High-Level International Conference on Connectivity between Central and South Asia, held in Tashkent on July 15-16 this year, showed to what extent all of us are interested in Afghanistan becoming not an obstacle, but a bridge between the two regions.
Therefore, we cannot isolate Afghanistan and leave the Afghan people alone with their daunting challenges in this difficult time.
“In this regard, Uzbekistan draws the attention of the international community to the expediency of developing Afghanistan’s post-conflict reconstruction strategy, the need to unfreeze this state’s assets abroad and prevent a reduction in humanitarian aid to the Afghan people in the current difficult period. The international community must support and encourage the new government, not isolate and impose sanctions.
“For its part, Uzbekistan provides all possible humanitarian and other assistance to the Afghans. We have opened the Uzbek-Afghan border and resumed deliveries of basic foodstuffs, oil products and electricity. On October 16, the full-scale Uzbek-Afghan intergovernmental talks on the development of trade and economic relations were held in the south of Uzbekistan
city of Termez.
“The contacts that were established earlier, as well as balanced and thoughtful diplomacy, allow us to conduct a smooth and useful dialogue with the Taliban leadership. We are negotiating a gradual and full resumption of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan, including on the prospects for infrastructure projects, including the construction of the Surkhan-Puli-Khumri power line.
“In addition to power lines, we are also interested in the construction of the Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar railway with international partners. We also plan to actively develop trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties with Afghanistan in the future.”
Pointing to Uzbekistan’s relations with the states of the Islamic world, especially since Uzbekistan is a country with a rich history of Muslim traditions, having longstanding close ties with Arab countries, we queried the minister on his assessment of Uzbekistan’s place and role in the Islamic world, as well as its current relations with the Arab states.
Minister Kamilov: “The religion of Islam came to Central Asia in the VII-VIII centuries along with the Arab campaigns. Islam is firmly embedded in the culture and mentality of the population of our region. More than 90 percent of the population of our country follows Islam. Uzbekistan is a full-fledged member of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
“Uzbekistan made a significant contribution to the development of Islamic civilization. The territory of modern Uzbekistan is recognized as the cradle of science, culture and art. The great scientists and thinkers such as Imam At-Tirmidhi, Makhmud Zamakhshari and Abu Mansur al-Maturidi, whose works are rightfully considered the treasures of scientific thought and the heritage of mankind, lived and worked on this land.
“A native of Maverannahr – Imam al-Bukhari, who left a huge number of essential Islamic works, including Al-Jami Al-Sahih, compiled the most authoritative collection of hadiths. Millions of Muslims around the world strive to visit the Imam’s homeland in sacred Bukhara and honor his grave in Samarkand.
“The immortal names of great scientists and geniuses who lived in our land, such as Ahmad Farghani, Abu Raykhan Beruni, Abu Ali ibn Sina (Avicenna), Mirzo Ulugbek and Alisher Navoiy and many others, are inscribed in golden letters in the history of not only Islamic, but also the entire world civilization.
“In order to comprehensively study the rich and scientific heritage in Tashkent, the Center for Islamic Civilization and the International Research Center of Imam Bukhari in Samarkand were established.
“The cooperation with the OIC has intensified. In October 2016, Uzbekistan hosted the 43rd Session of the OIC Council of Foreign Ministers. On 1 -4 September, 2021, the 46th Annual Meeting of the Board of Governors of the Islamic Development Bank was held in Tashkent.
“The development of relations and establishment of multifaceted cooperation with the countries of the Arab world are among the unconditional priorities of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy. Since gaining Independence, we have established diplomatic relations with all Arab countries. Trade, economic and investment cooperation with Arab countries is expanding. The declared portfolio of investment projects exceeds $6 billion.
“Along with this, not only economic interests unite us with the Arab world. The processes of globalization have brought to light a multitude of common challenges and tasks that we, the Muslim countries, must and can only solve by joint efforts.
Among such tasks are the fight against ignorance, promotion of the ideas of tolerance and education, peaceful settlement of conflicts, and the solution of pressing problems of the youth, especially in the sphere of education.”
Turning to Uzbek Kuwait relations, we asked the minister on how they were developing, especially since it is well-known that he attaches special importance to relations with Kuwait, and considering that the Uzbek embassy in Kuwait often plays the role of a regional mission.
Minister Kamilov: “In recent years, our relations have acquired a special dynamic. Tashkent and Kuwait maintain an active political dialogue. A solid foundation has been laid between the countries in order to expand the cooperation in trade, economic and investment spheres. The ties in the fields of culture and humanities are also intensively expanding.
“An important event in bilateral relations was the visit to Uzbekistan in July of a delegation of the State of Kuwait led by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Minister of Cabinet Affairs Sheikh Nasser al-Muhammad al-Sabah to participate in the International Conference titled, ‘Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities’. During his stay in Tashkent, President Mirziyoyev received Sheikh Dr. Ahmad Nasir Al-Muhammad Al-Sabah. As a result, a ‘Road Map’ was adopted for the implementation of practical measures agreed upon during the summit meeting.
“In August, another Kuwaiti delegation headed by Minister of Finance, Minister of State for Economic Relations and Investments Khalifa Musaed Hamada visited Tashkent, and took part in the Annual Meeting of the IDB Board of Governors.
“As you probably know, a delegation from Kuwait visited our country, headed by the Chairman of the Constitutional and Appellate Court, Mohammad Al-Qinai, whose members arrived to participate as international observers in the recent main political event in Uzbekistan, the presidential elections.
“Uzbekistan and Kuwait regularly come out with mutual support for the initiatives of the parties as a part of the international organizations. The financial and technical cooperation of Uzbekistan with the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development is being successfully carried out.
“The regular flights of Jazeera Airways on the Kuwait – Tashkent – Kuwait route since 27 June, 2021 was a significant step in further developing the bilateral multifaceted cooperation. This will undoubtedly contribute to the deepening and expansion of trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian ties between our countries. I should note that in order to create favorable conditions for travels, beginning March 2021 the Uzbek side has introduced a 10-day visa-free stay in Uzbekistan for the Kuwaiti citizens.
“Taking this opportunity, I would like to invite Kuwaiti trade and economic companies and investors to more actively participate in the implementation of projects in various sectors of the economy of Uzbekistan, including in the fuel and energy, electrical, chemical, pharmaceutical, construction materials, mechanical engineering, textile and food industries, agriculture, etc.”
In concluding the interview we turned to the recent presidential elections in Uzbekistan, and asked the minister to elaborate on this very successful process.
Minister Kamilov: The country took all the necessary measures to ensure the democratic and open elections in accordance with high international standards.
All candidates nominated by political parties had actively embarked upon the pre-election political contest.
“In order to ensure the transparency of the elections, we invited the international observers from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the Association of World Election Bodies (A-WEB), the Turkic Council, the Parliamentary Assembly of Turkic States (TURKPA) and representatives from more than 50 countries.
“The observers from political parties and civil society also participated in monitoring of all activities related to the preparation and conduct of elections. The presidential elections in Uzbekistan were held in full compliance with the requirements of the legislation, in the context of deepening processes of democratization of society, increased political and public activeness.”