On the eve of the state visit to Astana on March 22-23, the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Miromonovich Mirziyoyev in an interview agreed to answer the questions of Kazinform international information agency.
- Shavkat Miromonovich, this is Your first visit to Kazakhstan as the President of Uzbekistan. With what feelings are You heading to Astana?
Indeed, the upcoming state visit to Kazakhstan is an important political event in our bilateral relations, which are of a special nature due to the common history, the closeness of cultures, traditions, customs and the common religion.
The Treaty on Eternal Friendship, the Agreement on Strategic Partnership is the evidence of the high level of Uzbek-Kazakh ties. Our positions on many issues of international and regional policy coincide. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan feel responsible for strengthening the peace and security in our vast region.
We are pleased with Kazakhstan’s growing prestige in the world arena. Undoubtedly, the fact that the country is now the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council is in itself the evidence of the country’s growing role in the world.
During the meeting with the President of Kazakhstan, we will exchange views, first of all, on the activation of relations between our countries and naturally, on the situation in the region.
In Uzbekistan, Nursultan Nazarbayev is known and respected as the President of the fraternal Kazakhstan, and is highly appreciated for his personal qualities, which were on full display in September last year when he came to Uzbekistan to pay tribute to the memory of the First President of Uzbekistan, his friend Islam Abduganievich Karimov. And this shall never be forgotten ...
I am convinced that the visit to Kazakhstan will allow us to take a new step towards further development of our relations. We know that the peoples in our countries expect a lot from this meeting, and I believe that these expectations will prove right.
- One of the first major documents that has been adopted under Your leadership was Uzbekistan's Development Strategy for 2017-2021. The document focuses on the implementation of the program of the Year of Dialogue with People and Human Interests. Why were these priorities chosen for the further development of the country?
You know that under the leadership of the First President, the independent Uzbekistan started to build a market economy, and a lot has been achieved.
At the same time, the life goes on and much remains to be done to ensure further and sustainable development of the country. The adopted Development Strategy defines how Uzbekistan will develop in the next five years.
This program covers such areas as the state building, judicial and legal reform, economic strategy, development of the social sphere, the country's security strategy and development of foreign relations.
I want to draw your attention to the fact that the Strategy is not the fruit of theoretical (cabinet) reflections. The draft of this document had been widely discussed and approved by the ordinary people, in fact thousands of people made proposals, new initiatives, which for the most part have been reflected in the final version.
I would say that this document is a set of chosen priorities for the further development of the country, in which human interests, needs are the core, the civil rights are guaranteed and which contains Uzbekistan's strategy to become one of the developed countries and measures aimed at sustainable economic growth.
The year 2017, declared in our country as the Year of Dialogue with the People and Human Interest, takes an important place within the Strategy. This explains the urgency of establishing direct contact between the authorities and each citizen. And it all began with the opening in the end of last year of the Virtual Reception, as a new mechanism for interaction between the ordinary people and the state, to which over half a million people have applied so far, and almost every one of these appeals was reviewed and in some form responded.
I am convinced that today we cannot ensure the country’s successful development without dialogue with the people. And the final essence of this lies in a very simple formula: it is not the people that should serve the state, but the state should serve the people, and I think this is the quintessence of what is being done in Uzbekistan right now.
- The sustainable development of the Central Asia largely depends on the level and quality of cooperation between our countries. How do you assess the current Kazakh-Uzbek relations?
The Uzbek-Kazakh relations are of great importance for the sustainable development of the Central Asia. The signing of the Agreement on Strategic Partnership between our states was not an accident.
In our region during the most difficult periods of modern history, we managed to preserve peace and stability, to avoid serious interstate conflicts.
This was largely due to the wise far-sighted policies of our states, which, over the past years, managed to build such a nature of relations, which also affected the ties with other countries of Central Asia.
I am convinced that everything that has been done by our states, to date, namely declaration of the Central Asia a free of nuclear weapons zone and to promote this initiative on the world stage, including its distribution as an official document of the United Nations, was not only of regional importance, but also contributed to the strengthening of the nuclear non-proliferation strategy at the global level.
Speaking about the development of Central Asia, we are well aware that any major regional transport, communication and power projects are impossible without active interaction between the countries of the region and high level of connectivity. The fact that Central Asia is becoming one of the key players in international power and transport projects is largely a result of the active foreign policy of the countries of our region.
Thanks to the joint efforts, Central Asia is really becoming a crossroads of transport corridors that connect the East with the West, the North with the South. Figuratively speaking, today the Great Silk Road is being rebuilt on a new base, and again, like many centuries ago we are in the heart of this main transport artery of the Eurasian continent.
I am pleased to emphasize that Kazakhstan is one of the most important economic partners of Uzbekistan.
Of course, the global financial crisis has affected the trade volumes. But at the same time, it should be recognized that there is a large untapped potential. In Uzbekistan, there are nearly 230 enterprises with the participation of Kazakhstani capital. In turn, in Kazakhstan - there are 130 enterprises with the Uzbek capital. These figures could be increased by many folds. This is evidenced by new initiatives of business circles of our countries, some of which are already being implemented.
- Recently, such phenomenon as "people's diplomacy" has actively manifested itself in modern international politics, which includes links between representatives of science and culture, inter-parliamentary ties, direct contacts between regions and business circles. What perspectives do you see in cooperation between our countries and peoples in these areas?
Yes, indeed, the international relations are not limited only to the ties between governments and with traditional diplomatic formats. In particular inter-parliamentary contacts have already become one of the most important factors determining the depth of bilateral relations. It is not accidental that such a notion as parliamentary diplomacy has appeared, which is an important resource in interstate relations. And we are talking not only about the role of parliamentarians in improving the legal and regulatory framework of bilateral relations, but that they are representatives of the people and today their voice, their word is a weighty factor in the development of cooperation between countries.
During the forthcoming visit, it is planned to sign a separate document that will open a new page of interparliamentary relations between our countries. By the way, recently an inter-parliamentary group on cooperation with the Parliament of Kazakhstan was established by joint decision of the Legislative Chamber and Senate of the Oliy Majlis of Uzbekistan.
In our opinion, this is very important, as close contacts between parliamentarians play a huge role as a catalyst for intensifying cooperation in many areas. For example, in the development of interregional relations.
I am glad that work has already started in this area. In recent months, a number of visits of representatives of Uzbekistan’s provinces to Kazakhstan, and vice versa.
In particular, the delegation of Tashkent visited Almaty. In turn the delegations from Kyzylorda and East Kazakhstan provinces visited Uzbekistan. It is noteworthy that during these visits, representatives of the provinces were able to agree on many issues, including the implementation of promising joint projects, facilitation of cross border contacts between people living in border areas, and links in the sphere of culture and education.
I think that the peoples of our countries will very soon be able to appreciate the results of such cooperation.
Recently, a delegation of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan, which played an important role in ensuring peace and harmony in your country visited Uzbekistan. Productive meetings were held with representatives of the Republican International Center, agreements were reached on permanent contacts and exchange of experience.
When we talk about people's diplomacy, we mean the ties of representatives of culture, science and education. I am sure that there is a need in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to raise these ties to a qualitatively new level. I think that during our visit we will be able to agree on specific mechanisms for continuing cooperation in this area.
- From the very beginning of Your tenure as the President you have designated the Central Asian region among the priorities of Uzbekistan's foreign policy. What, in Your opinion, are the most important directions for strengthening regional cooperation in Central Asia?
One of the main vectors of Uzbekistan’s foreign policy is to strengthen ties with the neighbors. This is a natural aspiration, and it originates from the clear understanding that Uzbekistan’s sustainable development largely depends on how correctly we can build our regional policy.
We all understand that Central Asia has for centuries had a common geographical, economic and cultural space.
No country can resolve on its own the problems of the region, such as the problems of delimitation and demarcation of state boundaries, transport communications, environment, rational and equitable use of water resources.
The Central Asia has always been highly dependent on water resources, and now, with global warming, rising water consumption, the situation is only worsening. Today, if we do not save each drop of water, we will have committed a crime before future generations.
Again, not a single country, even applying the best water saving technologies, can resolve this problem on its own. In this matter, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have a full understanding, and together we stand for a unified strategy, supporting the international legal norms in resolving these issues.
The same can be said for the countries of the region, which, possessing large resources and comparative advantages, will not be able to use them in isolation. A country will not be able to deliver resources, its goods, bypassing its neighbors. Therefore, we need to agree and create a single integrated system for managing traffic flows, open new transport corridors, from which we will all benefit.
Returning to the issues of regional cooperation, I would define the current policy of Uzbekistan as follows: Uzbekistan will not distance from acute problems, but rather search for reasonable compromises.
The agenda of the forthcoming talks in Kazakhstan will also contain issues of regional development. This include the search for solutions to existing problems and joint implementation of major regional projects. All this will be of paramount importance to us.
- The agenda of Your meeting with N. Nazarbayev will include the issues of strengthening regional and international security. What prospects do You see in the cooperation between Astana and Tashkent in this area?
I would like to emphasize that Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have always in many ways had identical approaches to the main problems of contemporary international agenda. We have always supported and, I am sure, we will continue to support each other's initiatives in the international arena.
Our countries are seriously concerned about security issues both at the global and regional levels. In this regard, I would like to emphasize that we highly evaluate Kazakhstan’s role, which is doing tremendous work to strengthen peace and stability in the region. It is enough to note such initiatives of Kazakhstan as the establishment of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence Building Measures in Asia (CICA), aimed at facilitating multilateral cooperation in other areas.
As for transnational threats to peace and stability, in our opinion, the answer to them should be adequate, international. I think that the forthcoming SCO summit in Astana in June and the chairmanship of Kazakhstan in this multilateral organization are of great importance for enhancing its effectiveness in combating transnational threats and in strengthening peace and stability in our region.
In matters of security, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan have always advocated and are in favor of turning the SCO and other forums into real action organizations.
We have always understood that security issues are directly related to ensuring sustainable economic development, resolving problems of the ordinary people. Therefore, combating terrorism and radicalism should include not only the intensification of security measures, but also efforts to ensure sustainable economic growth, provision of freedom for entrepreneurship, and responding to people's needs. This is the first step towards ensuring security and sustainable development.
When we talk about Uzbekistan’s regional policy and about the intensification of relations with neighbors, we bear in mind Afghanistan, which has a common border with Uzbekistan. We all understand that the situation in Afghanistan carries certain challenges for Central Asia. Therefore, it is natural that Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are interested in the speediest resolution of the Afghan crisis.
The transition of Afghanistan to peaceful lines largely depends on its economic development, in which the countries of our region can and should take part. Of course, joint infrastructure projects in Afghanistan can play a huge role here. Including the development of a trans-Afghan transport corridor, which will also have a positive impact on the countries of the region to reach the ports of South Asia, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East.
I think that regional cooperation in implementing joint projects in Afghanistan in such areas as the development of the power sector and transport communications, taking into account the experience of our experts, can play a huge role in strengthening the peace process in this country.
- Shavkat Miromonovich, what are Your wishes to the people of Kazakhstan in the days of the celebration of Navruz.
It is profoundly symbolic that this visit to Kazakhstan coincides with the spring holiday - Navruz. This is our common ancient and beloved holiday, marking the beginning of a new year, renewal, a new beginning.
I think that we can say today that Kazakhstan, where with the Constitution amended, some important decisions have just been made, as well as Uzbekistan, which implements the Development Strategy in five priority areas, are both on the verge of renewal and further development.
We sincerely wish to the people of Kazakhstan further prosperity. I am confident that Kazakhstan, under the wise leadership of a great friend of Uzbekistan, the respected Nursultan Nazarbayev, will certainly achieve the goals outlined in the Kazakhstan-2050 Strategy, which has set a very inspiring goal - making Kazakhstan a developed country. There can be no doubt that these goals will be achieved, and the people of Kazakhstan will reach a new level of development.
I wish prosperity, happiness, peace and prosperity to every Kazakh family in the days of Navruz.
- Mr. President, many thanks for Your detailed and informative answers.
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