"Tashkent interested in Middle Corridor and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway"
Caliber.Az from Uzbekistan
INTERVIEWS 22 February 2023 - 17:42
Uzbekistan, a key political player in Central Asia, has long-standing and close political, cultural and economic ties with Azerbaijan. But it is also obvious that a lot of things in relations between our two countries are just being formed, although the prospects are extremely extensive and large-scale.
To a certain extent, the need for rapprochement between the two countries is due to a sharp change in the conjuncture and specifics of the geopolitical configuration in the world, which, of course, affected the immediate and distant plans of both Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan, Uzbek political scientist Oleg Golishnikov said, commenting for Caliber.Az current Azerbaijani-Uzbek relationship.
- What do you expect Azerbaijani-Uzbek relations to be like in 2023? After all, it is not by chance that they are called "special", comparing the level of cooperation between Baku and other Central Asian countries.
- It should be emphasised that the personal relations of trust between the two leaders play an important role. I would say that the level of relations that has developed between the Uzbek and Azerbaijani leaders serves as an additional factor in strengthening Uzbek-Azerbaijani cooperation.
In general, Uzbek and Azerbaijan peoples are brought together by many things: similar national customs and traditions, one language group, common cultural roots, and belonging to the same religion. In the 1930s of the last century, during Stalin's repressions, tens of thousands of Azerbaijanis found shelter in Uzbekistan. Today, more than 40,000 Azerbaijanis - their descendants - actively participate in Uzbekistan's social and economic life.
For Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan is one of the key strategic partners with which relations are developing in a variety of areas, including military-political, trade-economic, transport-logistics and cultural-humanitarian areas. Moreover, both Tashkent and Baku are optimistic about the further development of bilateral ties. I would like to remind you that during the Azerbaijani leader's state visit to Uzbekistan in June 2022, a declaration was signed on deepening the strategic partnership between the two countries, which brings relations between Tashkent and Baku to a higher level.
In general, the intensity of contacts at various levels is noticeably increasing. Meetings of the Intergovernmental Commission are held regularly, during which special attention is paid to the expansion of trade and economic cooperation. The parties set an ambitious task - to increase mutual trade turnover to $1 billion in the future. To implement promising projects, Tashkent and Baku plan to create a joint Uzbek-Azerbaijani investment fund, which will give additional impetus to strengthening the trade and economic potential of both countries.
In addition to expanding the bilateral agenda, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan actively cooperate within the framework of international structures, including CIS platforms, Organisations of Turkic States, CICA and ECO. For example, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev visited Samarkand twice last year. In the first case, we are talking about the Samarkand SCO Summit (September 2022), where President Aliyev was the guest of honour. If in the future Baku expresses a desire to join the SCO as a full member, then Tashkent, I think, will only support such a decision. Uzbekistan was also glad to see the Azerbaijani leader at the OTS summit held in Samarkand in November 2022.
- How are Uzbekistan's economic strategy and logistics ties changing in the context of the new geopolitical reality?
- Diversification of trade and economic ties is one of the key priorities of Uzbekistan. This is directly related to the desire to diversify the transport and logistics routes for the delivery of Uzbek goods to foreign markets. Tashkent has been striving for this since the first days of independence, and it does not always have to do with the current geopolitical situation – I mean the current situation around Ukraine and Russia. At the same time, the aggravation of the situation due to the confrontation between the West and Russia, of course, leads to the reformatting of existing logistics supply chains and the search by many countries for new mechanisms to maintain the West-Russia trade to ensure macroeconomic stability. This is a common problem, and it is fully relevant to the countries of Central Asia, including Uzbekistan, which is trying to adapt to these difficult conditions. In this context, Uzbekistan intends to actively connect to the transcontinental routes North-South and West-East.
But I would also add that the development of alternative routes for the export of Uzbek goods and Uzbekistan's diversification of trade and economic cooperation has its own logic - in general, they are carried out not to the detriment, but in addition to the traditional markets for Uzbek products and trade and economic ties. In its foreign policy and foreign economic activity, the country relies primarily on pragmatism, through the prism of which Tashkent builds its relations both with individual states and with multilateral structures and organisations.
- How is the development of transit corridors that are extremely important for our countries, as well as the interaction of logistics routes within the framework of the Organisation of Turkic States? After all, the Turkic Union has now found a new breath and a special significance in the economic and political life of Eurasia.
- As part of the diversification of trade and economic ties, among the major infrastructure projects, Tashkent's promotion of railway construction towards China (Uzbekistan-Kyrgyzstan-China) and Pakistan (Termez-Mazar-i-Sharif-Kabul-Peshawar) should be highlighted. The development of Trans-Caspian routes is also one of the priorities of Uzbekistan's foreign economic activity. Tashkent, for example, joined the Trans-Caspian International Transport Route (Middle Corridor) as an associate member back in 2021. And last December, Uzbekistan sent its first freight train along this corridor. The country is also interested in using the transit potential of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway.
In addition, at the OTS summits, Tashkent constantly raises questions about the need to strengthen cooperation between the Turkic countries in the transport and logistics sphere, including in the Trans-Caspian direction. On this issue, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Turkey have established regular multilateral meetings with the participation of the three countries' relevant ministers. In my opinion, for this route to become more attractive and competitive, serious efforts are needed by all countries interested in it in order to expand the existing transport and logistics infrastructure and optimise transport tariffs.
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