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In recent years, relations between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan gained significant momentum of development by upping to the level of strategic partnership

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Baku, 13 January 2017 – Newtimes.az

Sherzod Faiziev

Ambassador extraordinary and plenipotentiary

of The Republic of Uzbekistan to the Republic of Azerbaijan

In modern time Uzbekistan is a country which is developing in all spheres and directions. Today the country can feel proud for the ponderable results it gained under the direction of the President Islam Karimov. Keeping pace with time and world society, Uzbekistan pays huge attention to strengthening the friendship, cooperation and the mutually beneficial partnership with Azerbaijan. The time itself showed that uzbek-azerbaijani relationship has huge perspectives and plays significant role in supporting long-term stability and sustainability in the regions of Southern Caucasus and Central Asia.

On 1st of September, 1991 Republic of Uzbekistan declared its independence. 25 years have passed since that time. Obviously, it is a short period by the standards of history of humanity, for the process of formation of states and their appearance on the world map. Nevertheless, during this short period Uzbekistan, undoubtedly, has passed a way equal to centuries.

On the contemporary stage the republic is demonstrating imposing indexes in the development of national economy, in spite of the crisis phenomena in the world. These successes are the results of competent and verified policy of the President Islam Karimov, which is based on five principles of shift to socially oriented market economy. Among them there is the deidelogization of economy and its priority over politics, imposition of the role of the main reformer on the state, security of the rule of law, the conduct of strong social policy, phasing and gradualness of realization of the reforms. Because of the consistent implementation of this model, Uzbekistan, unlike other countries with transitional economy, has reached high rates in economical development during its independence period.

Such an approach during the years of independence created the foundation of market economy, new mechanisms of economic relations were implemented, relevant industrial market infrastructure was created, absolutely new financial and contemporary two tier banking system, which met the requirements of the market economy were formed, in addition, there were deep reforms in all sectors of the economy.

Stable robust growth, stability and reliability of the newly created financial and banking system, successful structural transformations of the economy and as a whole bold steps of Uzbekistan on the path of country’s modernization, find their acceptance in the world society as well as in such authoritative international financial organizations as International Monetary Fund, World Bank, Asian Bank of Development, etc. Leading international experts repeatedly emphasized that the successes of economical policy of the country are based on the political stability and consistency of the reforms.

According to the report of World Bank, at this moment Uzbekistan is among the top ten countries in the world, which during the last year have reached the optimum results in improving the environment for business activities. In the rating of World Bank of Doing Business, published in the October, 2015, Uzbekistan during only one year has rose by 16 points and has reached the 87th place.

In turn, according to the rating of World Economic Forum, Uzbekistan is among five countries with the fastest growing economy in the world by the end results of 2014-2015, and by forecasted growth for 2016-2017. In addition, in 2015, our country became one of the 14 countries that have received awards for achieving the Millennium Development Goals in the area of food security by the member states of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).

Indeed, over the years of independence Uzbekistan’s economy grew by almost 5,5 times, real income per capita increased by 10 times, average pension - almost 9 times, wages – by 18 times, the life expectancy of people increased from 67 to 73 years, fuel, energy and grain self-sufficiency and total self-sufficiency in meat, dairy products and other consumer goods have been achieved.

Our country is now ranked fifth in the world among countries with rapidly developing economies in the past eleven years, despite of ongoing global economic crisis, the growth rate of gross domestic product has upped by more that 8 percent. According to the most authoritative international economic and social centers, Uzbekistan now takes the 44th place among 158 countries, and 1st among CIS countries in the "Global Index of Happiness”.

Today we can be proud that in a historically short period of time in Uzbekistan there was formed the foundation of the national state, the basic values which define the Basic Law – the Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, where the most important principles of state and public construction are explicitly stated, the key of which is the principle of separation of powers into legislative, executive and judicial.

The current legal framework in the country carried out radical administrative reform, which implemented the modernization and update of structures of state and economic management and reorganization of local government.

Concept of further deepening democratic reforms and formation of civil society in the country, launched by the President Islam Karimov in the November, 2010, marked a new stage of independent development of Uzbekistan. This historic document is a logical, natural extension of large scale reforms on democratic renewal and modernization of the country since independence. It defines a long-term strategic program of further continuation of modernization of the country on a fundamentally new stage of development of the state ad society.

The concept reflects the prioritized directions of creating a legal framework reforms that are closely interrelated and independent, such as the democratization of state power and governance, reforming the judicial system, the information sphere, ensuring the freedom of expression and information, freedom of choice and development in electoral law, the formation and development of institutions of civil society, further deepening in democratic market reforms and liberalization of the economy.

An important step in this direction was a new mechanism for strengthening parliamentary control over the executive branch, including the procedure of the nomination of the Prime Minister’s political party with the largest number of seats in Legislative Chamber, fixation of the right of the Parliament for expressing the vote of no confidence in the head of governance, listening and discussing reports of the Prime Minister on the actual issues of socio-economic development of the country, etc.

High rates of growth and renewal of the economy, democratic reforms and the overall modernization of the country, the implementation of which has no analogues in the world practice of the National Program of Personnel Training and State National Program for Development of School Education and a huge attention by the state paid to education of physically healthy, spiritually and harmoniously developed generation, are of historical importance and positive blast effect. Today, it is confirmed by the youth of Uzbekistan that is in no way an inferior among the others, who is gaining successes in sphere of education, science, culture, arts and sports, and, who takes possession of the basics of contemporary knowledge and professions.

After gaining state independence of Uzbekistan, the revival of spirituality and culture, the return of the true history and identity has become one of the priorities of the state policy of the Republic. The nationwide and religious celebrations of Novruz, Ruza Hayit, and Kurban Hayit were restored. The sacred religion of our fathers and grandfathers – Islam was revived.

Carrying highly moral and humanistic principles, this religion has always played a unifying role, synthesized thousand-year experience of the spiritual formation of the Uzbek people and the entire Muslim Ummah as a whole. Old mosques we reconstructed and new ones were built, number of educational institutions were created, in particular Tashkent Islamic University. Numerous cultural and historical monuments, that are the masterpieces and the pride of Uzbek people have been restored, in addition, there appeared a construction of new memorials, such as, the Memorial of memory and honor, Imam Al-Bukhari, Al-Fergana, Museum of Amir Timur and Timurids, and many other monuments, which combined the traditions of oriental architecture and the modern architectural achievements, characterized by elegance and brightness.

The holding of the strong social policy in Uzbekistan is essential for the interests of a person, which is the highest value for us. In connection with this, it became a good tradition to name each year in order to gain the attention of state and society about a particular social problem. By the initiative of President Islam Karimov, 2016 was declared the "Year of healthy mother and child”. Specially designed state program "Year of healthy mother and child”, count upon the security of maternal and child health, health promotion, mental, moral and physical education of the younger generation.

One of the main directions of the program is determined to be the improvement of the legislation and the regulatory framework regarding the protection of the family, motherhood and childhood. In addition, there is a plan for development of the draft law "On state youth policy” in the new edition. It is planned to amend the Criminal Code aimed at the liberalization of criminal legislation in relation to women with children aged up to three years. Furthermore, the decision of the Cabinet regarding the establishment of day care centers for children with disabilities, orphanages and other educational institutions will be adopted.

The priority task of the state program is the early detection of congenital and hereditary diseases through prenatal and neonatal screening of pregnant women and newborns, mass early prenatal ultrasound screening of pregnant women at the level of primary health care, equipping 13 screening centers with digital multi-purpose high class ultrasound systems. Also, steps towards improvement of medical culture of the population, strengthening of the work in the field of sanitation and hygiene, health care and improvement in the psycho-physiological state of pregnant women will be taken. It is planned to create a National Educational and Scientific Center of Nutrition at the Tashkent Medical Academy. The program also defines the tasks of strengthening the role of education in shaping a healthy baby, the development of the network of preschool educational institutions and radical increase in the level of preparation of children to school.

Analyzing what was made during this period there can be found any reason to believe that elected "uzbek model” of economic development in conjunction with measures to further deepening democratic market reforms and liberalization of the economy, deeply thought out and consistently implemented priorities of political, economic and social transformations have created the rugged and reliable foundation on the basis of which was build and is build the sustainable and dynamic development of the national economy, the standard of living of the population is consistently raising, the international authority of Uzbekistan is strengthening.

The current realities, including those related to the globalization process, determine the importance of greater emphasis on the promotion of external relations. Today, Uzbekistan, keeping pace with the time and the world community pays great attention to strengthening the ties of friendship, cooperation and mutually beneficial partnership with the near and far foreign countries. In this content, Uzbekistan attaches priority importance to the deepening of cooperation with Azerbaijan, considering it as a key partner in the South Caucasus region, acquiring a growing geopolitical and economic importance.

Time itself has shown that the Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations have great prospects and play an important role in maintaining long-term stability and sustainable development in the regions of South Caucasus and Central Asia.

Diplomatic relations between Republic of Uzbekistan and Republic of Azerbaijan were established on October 2, 1995.

Embassy of the Republic of Azerbaijan in the Republic of Uzbekistan has been operating since August, 1996. In July, 1998 the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan was opened in the Republic of Azerbaijan.

The fundamentals of intergovernmental relations are coming from time immemorial strong ties of friendship and fraternity, closeness of cultures, languages, religions and traditions of the community, historically established spiritual and humanistic values that bind the people of the two countries.

In recent years, relations between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan gained significant momentum of development by upping to the level of strategic partnership. There is no sphere of interaction that would have remained out of sight of our countries.

Political dialogue. Built on the principles of equality and constructivism, taking into account national interests and priorities, Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations became more dynamic and filled with new content after the countries gained independence. In Tashkent and Baku, the established relations based on the principles of trust, mutual understanding and respect for each other’s interests are appreciated and cherished.

At the present stage Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan seek the realization of the potential for multifaceted cooperation with high-impact, confirming the mutual commitment to full partnership. A positive factor that contributes to the development of open dialogue between old friends and reliable partners, is the special warm and trusting relationship between the leaders of the two countries. The regular meetings of heads of two states became a good tradition: from 1997 to the present day, six high-level visits - three visits of the President of Uzbekistan to Azerbaijan and three visits of Azerbaijan’s President to Uzbekistan.

The official visit of the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov to Azerbaijan, held on 11-12 October 2012, was an important step in the further development of multilateral cooperation, the strengthening of the strategic partnership and the formation of a comprehensive program of cooperation on key international issues which is based on mutual respect and consideration for the interests of the parties.

During the talks held in the spirit of constructivism and pragmatism, the parties discussed the state and prospects of Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations in various spheres, as well as important problems of regional and international security. It was noted that, despite the lack of common borders, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have a lot in common because of the growing geopolitical and geo-economic interdependence of South Caucasus and Central Asia. Time itself has shown that the Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations have great prospects and play an important role in maintaining long-term stability and sustainable development in the regions.

The packages interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental documents, signed within the framework of the six visits, strengthened the foundation for further expansion of cooperation and outlined a new course for the future cooperation. To this date, more than 110 legal documents regulating the entire spectrum of bilateral relations have been signed between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have similar positions on many issues of regional and international politics, including new threats and challenges for security and stability. The mutual desire to continue the partnership is manifested in the principal approach to issues of mutual support within various multilateral formats. In this regard, the position of the Republic of Uzbekistan in address to the problem of Nagorno-Karabakh remains firm and unchanging. Uzbekistan has consistently advocated and continues to advocate for a peaceful, political solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and, at the same time, considers the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Azerbaijan to be the main condition for the settlement.

In this context, Uzbekistan appreciates the support of Azerbaijan in Uzbekistan’s initiatives and positions on important regional issues such as the establishment of a mechanism for the settlement of the Afghan problem, a solution of water and energy issues in Central Asia, on the basis of universally recognized norms of international law and taking into account the interests of all states in the region.

It is encouraging that the possibilities of ministerial political consultations, supported by the appropriate juridical base are widely used in the Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations. Strengthening of cooperation is promoted by exchanges of visits at various levels. For example, in the framework of developing inter-parliamentary relations there were more than ten meetings of parliamentary delegations of the two countries, which contributed to the effective development of inter-state cooperation. In this context, the activities of the interparliamentary working group "Azerbaijan - Uzbekistan”, established in the Milli Majlis of Azerbaijan, whose members have been actively involved as international observers from Azerbaijan in late 2014 parliamentary and March 2015 presidential election Uzbekistan should also be noted.

Trade and economic relations are one of the priority areas of bilateral cooperation. It will not be an exaggeration if we say that this area is a key element for the promotion of all other spheres of our relationship, demonstrating the high level of relations formed at the political level.

Cooperation in this area is carried out in the free trade regime and includes a range of products in different industries. Today, Uzbekistan supplies Azerbaijan with vehicles, nonferrous metals, pharmaceutical, fertilizer, electrical and mechanical equipment, agricultural products, provides services in the transport, tourism and other spheres. Azerbaijan’s exports to Uzbekistan mainly consist of mechanical devices, confectionery, various organic chemicals, tanning and dyeing extracts.

In the times of the global financial and economic crisis, questions of definition of the joint program of action, strengthening and deepening of the cooperation between enterprises and companies of the two countries, maintaining and increase the momentum of mutual trade turnover remains extremely relevant. In this context, an important mechanism for regulating trade and economic cooperation is the Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Cooperation between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Republic of Azerbaijan. To this date, ten Board meetings have been held.

In addition, in order to enhance cooperation in trade and economic sphere between the two countries an active dialogue at the ministerial level was established. Thus, in February 2015, Uzbekistan was visited by the Minister of Economy of Azerbaijan Shahin Mustafayev. As part of the meetings held in Tashkent, the parties expressed their mutual interest in the use of reserves and significant opportunities for growth and economic relations, as well as the cooperation in the sphere of transport communications and transit, expansion of the legal framework.

Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have had some success in promoting cooperation in the investment sphere. Now in Uzbekistan there are 45 enterprises with participation of investors from Azerbaijan. They specialize in such sectors of economy as energy, light industry, machinery, metal processing, insurance, science and education, construction and trade

However, this is not the end of all the existing potential for cooperation in this field. On the contrary, there are still some opportunities, the use of which may be mutually beneficial. In this context, it should be noted that the investment potential of the Free Industrial Economic Zone "Navoi”, which began operating after its inception in 2008, also provides a good basis for the deepening of cooperation between the two countries. In particular, the Free Industrial Economic Zone "Navoi” offers foreign investors opportunities for business and initially provides businesses with greater competitive advantages. On the territory of the Free Industrial Economic Zone "Navoi” there is a special legal regime, including tax, currency and customs regimes, simplified procedure for entry, stay and departure, as well as permission for work for non-resident citizens of Uzbekistan, provided by extensive tax benefits, customs and other compulsory payments.

The main activity of economic entities of FIEZ "Navoi” is defined by production of a wide range of high-tech, competitive products to the world markets made through the introduction of modern foreign high-efficiency equipment and technology, technological lines and modules, innovative technologies.

Creation of FIEZ "Navoi” is not a single case in practice in Uzbekistan. After this one there were two free industrial zone formed in 2012 and 2013, located in Tashkent’s SIZ "Angren” and Jizzakh region’s SIZ "Jizzakh”. The core of these steps is the pursuit of intentions to create favorable conditions for attracting foreign and domestic investment to the regions of the republic.

As is known, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan are situated on important locations in terms of geopolitics of the region, through which the ancient "Silk Road” connecting the East with the West ran. The relevance of networking and the growing interest in the development of reliable transport communications contributes to the development and deepening of cooperation in the field of transport and communications, effective use of the huge transit potential of both countries. In this sense, the transportation routes from Central Asia across the Caspian Sea and then through the Caucasus to the ports of the Black Sea and the Mediterranean are of particular relevance. Port in the capital of Azerbaijan can become a major transportation hub for Uzbekistan, allowing the development of a promising new corridor Baku - Tbilisi - Kars with access to the markets of South and Central Europe, as well as through the Mediterranean port "Mersin” and the Black Sea port of "Poti” to the countries of Middle East, South and Southeast Asia.

In turn, we believe that Azerbaijan is also interested in using the potential of Uzbekistan, located in the heart of Central Asia, and introducing huge opportunities for economic and strategic spheres. In this regard, it is appropriate to re-emphasize that the potential of Free Industrial Economic Zone "Navoi” also creates a good basis for the deepening of cooperation between the two countries, including the transport and communication sector. Locating at the important crossroads of road, rail and air routes, airport of the city of Navoi connects the countries of Southeast Asia and Central and South Asia, the Middle East, as well as the states of the European continent. The joint construction of new production facilities, implementation of intercontinental air travel in the long term will be particularly advantageous for Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

It should also be noted that due to conducted joint Uzbek-Azerbaijani business forum, as well as other activities held during recent years of cooperation, new areas of mutually beneficial cooperation in trade and economic sphere have been identified and successfully implemented.

For example, the modern cars produce «GM-Uzbekistan” sold under the brand name "Chevrolet” are in high demand in Azerbaijan. It is worth noting that over the past five years, about 7,000 cars manufactured in Uzbekistan were delivered to Azerbaijan, in addition, it was agreed to supply another 3 million units of the product in the coming years.

It is gratifying to note that deliberate steps to expand the volume of deliveries of products Uzavtoprom to Azerbaijan are being taken. Presentation of the car "Cobalt”, held in Baku, had a great response, once again demonstrating the high achievements of Uzbekistan in the field of automobile production.

A promising area of cooperation is also the organization of supplies to Azerbaijan of passenger buses, large-tonnage trucks, special machinery, urban municipal vehicles, including fire and watering machines, lifts, produced in Uzbekistan on the base of "MAN” and "Isuzu”. For example, currently more than 400 buses "SamAvto” are already working on passenger lines in Azerbaijan.

In view of the implementation of state programs in the field of agricultural reforms in Azerbaijan, promising is also to supply Azerbaijani market with combines and tractors produced at the JV "UzKlaas Agro” and JSC "Tashkent Tractor Plant” and the variety of hinged agricultural machinery in a wide range, as well as mineral fertilizers .

There is an experience of deliveries of uzbek wheat to the Azerbaijani market and Azerbaijani companies are interested in continuing this cooperation with supply of up to 50 thousand tons of grain annually. At the same time, a significant potential of Uzbekistan in the cotton industry, as well as in the textile industry can be important in terms of identifying new faces of mutually beneficial cooperation in the field of agriculture.

In general, the dynamics of the events and bilateral talks with Azerbaijani partners demonstrate the high interest in further deepening and expansion of cooperation, as shown by a solid package of signed agreements for the supply of cars and spare parts, agricultural machinery, wheat, fertilizer, cable and wire products, and etc. to Azerbaijan.

Cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian sphere. Imbued with a deep respect and confidence, the Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations based on proximity and common national values, traditions, customs, language, culture and religion go back to centuries and have always been a fertile source of mutual support and assistance.

One of the clearest evidences of this is the opening of the monument to great Azerbaijani poet and thinker Nizami Ganjavi in the course of the visit of President Ilham Aliyev to Uzbekistan in March 2004. President Islam Karimov named the monument "a symbol of respect and trust to fraternal Azerbaijani people, their ancient history and culture, the undying spirit, will and persistence that have been tested for centuries, their bright future.”

Azerbaijan, in turn, has a great respect for the rich history and culture of the Uzbek people, their contribution to world civilization. Of particular interest is the work of the great classic of Uzbek literature, poet and thinker Alisher Navoi. In May 2007, a translation into Azerbaijani language works of Alisher Navoi "Mezonul Ausones” was presented in Azerbaijan, and in September 2008 in Baku, the monument to the great Uzbek poet was the opened. One of the central streets of the Azerbaijani capital was named after the outstanding scientist and statesman Mirzo Ulugbek.

The ceremony on this occasion was held in the framework of the official visit of the President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov to Azerbaijan. "Four years ago, a monument to Nizami was opened in Tashkent, - the head of our state said at the opening ceremony - Now in Baku monument to Alisher Navoi. Our nations read the works of Navoi, Nizami with great interest and respect, inspired by their creativity, and understand each other without an interpreter. It is our great asset. Uzbekistan cooperates with many countries, but relations with Azerbaijan have special spiritual closeness”.

In turn, President Ilham Aliyev noted that Azerbaijani people are well aware of and honor the great poet and thinker Alisher Navoi, almost all of whose works have been translated into Azerbaijani language.

Another significant event in the history of cultural and humanitarian relations was opening of Azerbaijani cultural center in 2010 in Tashkent, named after illustrious son of the Azerbaijani people, who made an invaluable contribution to the development of bilateral relations, a great friend of the Uzbek people - Heydar Aliyev. This cultural center entered the Association of Azerbaijani cultural centers, operating since 2003, contributing to the strengthening of relations between the two fraternal peoples.

To this date, more than 40 thousand Azerbaijanis live in different regions of Uzbekistan. During the years of independence, 27 Azerbaijanis of our country - teachers, builders, soldiers, masters of culture and art - were awarded with high state awards.

Cooperation in the cultural and humanitarian sphere is supported by the active participation of representatives of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan in different festivals of culture and art, forums and exhibitions held in the two countries. In particular, the Azerbaijani artists are permanent and active participants in the conducted in Samarkand International Music Festival "Sharq taronalari” projects "Asrlar sadosi”, "Art Week Style.uz”, opera festivals, theater and film, in which they have repeatedly won prizes. In turn, representatives of Uzbekistan annually take part in the International Mugham Festival, in which they also take prizes.

Perspective directions of bilateral cooperation in this sphere are the joint development of scientific and technical projects, development of direct contacts between the academies of sciences and universities of the two countries. Relations between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan in this field are based on the intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in education.

The purposeful cooperation between the Central Council of Public Youth Movement of Uzbekistan "Kamolot” and the Ministry of Youth and Sports of Azerbaijan is carried out on the basis of signed in March 2002, agreement between the youth organizations, regular exchange of youth delegations is practiced.

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Despite the fact that Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan do not have common borders in the traditional sense, our countries have much in common - a sincere attitude of brotherhood, based on proximity and a common history, language, culture and traditions, the growing geopolitical and geo-economic interdependence of South Caucasus and Central Asia .

Uzbekistan’s foreign policy is an effective tool for the implementation and protection of national interests of the state on the world stage. Since the first days of independence, Uzbekistan attaches the highest priority to the comprehensive development of cooperation with Azerbaijan, considering the country as a key partner in the South Caucasus.

Relying on their own resources and implementing large-scale reforms, today Azerbaijan has become a self-sufficient country, which goes ahead with confident steps and builds its future. We are very excited to witness the major successes and tangible changes taking place in the socio-political and economic life of Azerbaijan. Uzbekistan, being a close friend and partner, feels a sense of pride for Azerbaijan, which is consistently strengthening its independence, increases the wealth of the people, strengthening its position in the international arena. A striking confirmation of this is Azerbaijan’s becoming a nonpermanent UN Security Council member, major international forums held in Baku, the organization level of the First European Games in 2015 at an unprecedented high level.

Such significant and outstanding achievements of Azerbaijan are evidences of the deep reasonableness of the consistent domestic and foreign policy undertaken by the government, based on the continuation of the course of the architect of modern Azerbaijan, national leader who has done much to strengthen the Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations, Heydar Aliyev. Effective policy of President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev performed today shows us a lot of confidence in the prospects and the beautiful future of relations between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

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