On September 14, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, at the invitation of the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, took part in the fifth anniversary Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia, in Dushanbe.
The summit, chaired by the President of the Republic of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon, was also attended by the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic Sadyr Zhaparov, the President of Turkmenistan Serdar Berdimuhamedov, as well as the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev as an honorary guest and the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General – Head of the United Nations Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia, Kaha Imnadze.
By the agenda, issues of further enhancing multifaceted cooperation in the region were discussed, including the development of political dialogue, promotion of joint programs and projects in trade, investment, transport, energy, agriculture and ecology, intensification of cultural and humanitarian exchange, as well as responding to modern challenges and security threats.
In his speech, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan highly praised the joint efforts to strengthen relations of trust, good neighborliness, and partnership between the region’s countries.
“Thanks to our joint efforts, we have made serious progress in resolving vital issues and filled our cooperation with qualitatively new content. Political contacts and interparliamentary exchanges have become regular. Various platforms for dialogue and cooperation have been launched”, the Head of state noted.
The main result highlighted is that stability and unity are strengthening in Central Asia. Our region is becoming one of the important centers of economic growth and investment activity, once again regaining its historical role as a transport hub connecting West with East and North with South.
Taking into account an in-depth analysis of the impact of global processes on the region’s sustainable development, it was noted that the ability to effectively counter these threats directly depends on consolidating joint efforts to deepen a multifaceted partnership.
In this regard, the President of Uzbekistan put forward several proposals on the prospects for further interaction between the states of Central Asia.
– Trade and economic cooperation is the primary driver of regional partnership and integration. In Uzbekistan, we are creating all the necessary conditions for the development of practical interaction in this direction with all countries of the region”, the Leader of Uzbekistan emphasized.
The earliest possible formation of a full-fledged free trade zone without exceptions and restrictions has been proposed to increase the trade turnover.
In this regard, it is necessary to adopt a comprehensive regional Program that provides for the formation of sustainable trade and logistics chains in the region, the opening and expansion of cross-border trade and cooperation centers, the harmonization of legislation, and the elimination of barriers to mutual trade, the creation of unified electronic platforms for customs administration, sanitary and phytosanitary control, certification of origin of goods, as well as the launch of a regional e-commerce platform.
Regarding the development of industrial cooperation between the countries of the region, the President of Uzbekistan cited examples of successful partnerships in the production of passenger cars, household appliances, textiles, and food products, border zones of cooperation with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan, as well as Azerbaijan.
The following areas have been defined as promising areas for further deepening cooperation and implementing large industrial projects: production of mineral fertilizers, polymers, and finished metal products; assembly of agricultural machinery; production of finished textile and food products for export to third countries.
To make joint efforts systemic, it was proposed to develop a Strategy for the Development of Industrial Cooperation of the Central Asian Countries for the long term.
Particular attention was paid to issues of transport connectivity. It was noted that considering the geographical distance from the main foreign markets, the share of costs for transporting goods in the region’s countries reaches 50 percent of the final cost of goods. At the same time, the world average does not exceed 11 percent. As a result, our economies have to bear a transport burden two to three times more than in developed countries.
To further increase the transport potential of the region’s countries, it was proposed, within the framework of meetings of sectoral ministers, to develop an Agreement on Transport and Transit in Central Asia, to formulate specific mechanisms for promoting effective transport corridors to enter the markets of China, the countries of South Asia and the Middle East, the European Union using through tariffs, beneficial for business.
In addition, it was proposed to prepare a Program of Measures to liberalize the transport services market, optimize permitting procedures, and consider issues of creating an integrated digital platform for international transport.
“Unfortunately, the pace of energy infrastructure development in the region does not keep pace with the speed of industrialization, urbanization, and demographic growth. Today, this is a serious challenge to the long-term sustainable development of our countries”, the Head of state pointed out the problem of ensuring energy security.
The importance of further enhancing the interaction between sector ministries and national companies in the geological exploration and development of promising deposits, expanding the existing one, and creating a modern energy storage and supply infrastructure was emphasized.
In addition, essential areas of cooperation should be the construction of new highways for the transmission of electricity and the use of significant potential for hydropower development.
At the same time, it was noted that sustainable development of the region is impossible without diversifying energy sources, attracting investments and technologies in alternative energy, and producing “green” hydrogen.
The President of Uzbekistan noted vulnerabilities in ensuring food security in our region: insufficient scientific and technological development of the agricultural sector, acute shortage of water resources, long and ineffective value chains, instability in the climate crisis and logistics failures, and healthy nutrition issues.
It is essential to join forces and prepare, with the support of FAO, a regional partnership program in this area, considering that our countries’ capabilities allow us to fully meet the needs of the intraregional market and become a significant exporter of food.
“Countering climate challenges is becoming the most important factor in ensuring sustainable development of the region. In this regard, we intend to hold the first Samarkand International Forum dedicated to the climate agenda of Central Asia next spring”, the Head of state invited the delegations of the region’s countries.
As a practical contribution to ensuring climate resilience and green development, the adoption of a Regional Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change was initiated.
To form a unified climate agenda for the region and jointly take effective measures, it was also proposed to establish a multilateral platform “Central Asian Climate Dialogue” at the level of ecology ministers.
“Our key priority has traditionally been cultural and humanitarian cooperation, which is based on common history, traditions, culture, and values – the unity and diversity of the unique Central Asian civilization”, the Leader of Uzbekistan noted.
To ensure systematic work in this direction, it was proposed to adopt an Action Plan to deepen cultural and humanitarian interaction between Central Asian countries.
At the same time, it is necessary to actively use the capabilities of the media and non-governmental organizations, modern information and communication technologies to promote our unique cultural, historical and spiritual heritage internationally.
A practical step in this direction will be creating the International Media Platform “History and Culture of Central Asia: One Past and Common Future” with scientists and representatives of the general public to create shared content to strengthen mutual understanding and regional identity.
Particular attention was paid to the youth policy of the Central Asian states.
“To consolidate our efforts to develop the competencies of young people, promote their professional training, and ensure employment, we propose, with the participation of relevant international organizations, to create a Center for Empowerment and Self-realization of Central Asian Youth.
We also consider it essential to establish regional scientific and educational grants and scholarships for the talented youth of our countries in honor of such great Central Asian thinkers, scientists, and philosophers as Al-Khwarizmi, Farabi, Jami, Magtymguly, Chingiz Aitmatov”, the President of Uzbekistan said.
An important direction is the expansion of security cooperation. The proposal to hold regular meetings on security issues with the coordinating role of the Secretaries of the Security Councils of our states was supported.
The Interstate Program for the Protection and Strengthening of the Borders of the Central Asian Countries and the formation of a Regional System of Forecasting, Prevention, Early Warning, and Joint Response to Emergency Situations were initiated.
One of the key factors directly affecting security and stability in Central Asia remains the situation in Afghanistan.
It was noted that Uzbekistan intends to continue to provide the necessary assistance to the Afghan people, to provide for these purposes an International Hub in Termez for humanitarian aid, and to continue training Afghan citizens in a specially created educational center.
It was emphasized that, along with further promoting the Trans-Afghan Railway construction project, the restoration of Afghanistan’s internal transport arteries is in demand.
In addition, the importance of dialogue with the Afghan side on border security, water use, and trade development was noted.
At the end of his speech, the President of Uzbekistan expressed support for the proposal to establish a Council of National Coordinators for Consultative Meetings and proposed the creation of an Economic Council of Central Asian States. The Leader of Uzbekistan expressed confidence that the meeting results will strengthen friendship, good neighborliness, and strategic partnership of our countries and develop full-scale regional cooperation.
The heads of state of Central Asia and Azerbaijan delivered speeches at the summit, and the United Nations Secretary-General addressed the participants with a video message.
The following documents were adopted at the summit: Joint Statement on the Results of the Fifth Consultative Meeting of the Heads of State of Central Asia, Agreement between the Republic of Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and the Republic of Uzbekistan on General Directions of Youth Policy, Agreement on Strengthening the Connectivity of Land Transport in Central Asia, Regulations on the Council of National Coordinators for Consultative Meetings of the Heads of State of Central Asia, an Action Plan in Support of Health and Well-being in Central Asia for 2022-2025.