Moscow and Tashkent deepen partnership
In late February, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdualziz Kamilov visited Moscow to discuss regional security in Central Asia and the situation around Afghanistan with his Russian counterpart Sergei Laurov. The ministers agreed that last year's April visit of Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Moscow was a "turning point" in the recent history of Russian-Uzbek relations.
What is the peculiarity of the current stage of these relations, which makes it possible to speak of it as a turning point?
When the first president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, was in office, Tashkent was skeptical about any political or economic integration and had a reputation for being an unpredictable partner in the early 2000s. Periods of good-neighborly relations with the Russian Federation have been replaced by Uzbekistan joining then leaving the GUAM regional organization, oriented toward Western structures.
After Mirziyoyev, who previously held the position of prime minister, was elected president, Tashkent's foreign and domestic policies have started to change. The second president of Uzbekistan has not been seen associating with the opposition, but he had his own vision of the development of the republic. Being a technocrat and a supporter of tough administration, Mirziyoyev seeks to improve the performance of all state structures without exception. Last summer, he criticized the republic's prosecutor's office, starting to dismiss its employees who worked under the previous head of state. Mirziyoyev described the prosecutors as "thieves of the garbage system." In January of this year, a large-scale dismissal of the Ministry of Defense employees who used old working methods, had come to light. Mirziyoyev criticized the businessmen as well, urging them to return financial resources from abroad. At the same time, the president promised not to check entrepreneurs who keep money in Uzbekistan.
As for foreign policy, Mirziyoyev voiced his desire to strengthen ties in Central Asia based on mutual trust. Particular attention is expected to be paid to partnership with Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, as well as with Russia, with which mutually beneficial agreements and agreements have already been reached.
During the Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev's visit to Tashkent last November, the parties signed a package of documents, including the Agreement between the Russian Federal Service for Labor and Employment and the Agency for External Labor Migration; a memorandum on cooperation in field of use of atomic energy for peaceful purposes between Rosatom State Nuclear Energy Corporation and the Academy of Sciences of Uzbekistan; the framework agreement on the financing of the investment project "Construction of a new oil refinery in the Jizzakh region"; the agreement on the establishment of an Uzbek-Russian center for structural financing between the Uzbekistan Reconstruction and Development Fund and Gazprombank. Thus, Mirziyoyev allowed Russian business to develop the republic's economic area, which had not been the case previously.
Moscow supports Tashkent in its desire to hold an international high-level conference on Afghanistan titled 'The peace process, cooperation in the field of security and regional cooperation' on March 27. In turn, Uzbekistan provides assistance to the Russian Federation in the framework of its activities in the UN Security Council.
In addition, now there is a prospect of creating a free trade zone on the EEU border with Uzbekistan, which was also discussed at the meeting of Putin and Mirziyoyev. So far it is difficult for goods from Uzbekistan to enter the market of the EEU due to high customs barriers. However, one can expect that the creation of an FTZ will contribute to Uzbekistan's gradual integration into economic unions of the post-Soviet space.