Kazakhstan leader visits Uzbekistan, Tashkent hosts Uzbek-Kazakh business forum

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TASHKENT (TCA) — Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev paid a working visit to neighboring Uzbekistan on September 16. The visit came amid what his Uzbekistan counterpart, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, hailed as a “historic” year of improving relations between the two major players in Central Asia, RFE/RL reported.

Mirziyoyev greeted Nazarbayev at the airport in Uzbekistan’s capital, Tashkent, after which the two leaders visited an industrial exhibition devoted to bilateral ties and a monument to the Uzbek president’s predecessor, the late autocrat Islam Karimov, where Nazarbayev laid flowers.

During Karimov’s rule of more than a quarter-century, Uzbekistan was at odds with its neighbors over border disputes, ethnic tensions, and economic spats tied to water distribution and energy transportation in the region.

But Mirziyoyev, who took over the region’s most populous country of more than 30 million in September 2016 following Karimov’s death, has said improving ties with neighboring former Soviet republics is a top foreign-policy priority for Uzbekistan.

“One could truly call this year historic in terms of relations between the two countries,” Nazarbayev’s press service quoted Mirziyoyev as saying in Tashkent on September 16. “A serious breakthrough can be seen between our two governments in all spheres of the economy.”

Mirziyoyev’s office said the two sides had agreed to declare 2018 the “Year Of Uzbekistan” in Kazakhstan, and 2019 the “Year Of Kazakhstan” in Uzbekistan.

On September 16, an Uzbek-Kazakh business forum was opened in Tashkent organized by the Atameken National Chamber of Entrepreneurs of Kazakhstan, the Ministry of Investment and Development of Kazakhstan, the Chamber of Commerce of Kazakhstan and national company KAZAKH INVEST, with the participation of about 500 businessmen and top managers of national companies and state organizations representing the main industries of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.

In his welcome speech, Deputy Chairman of the Board of the National Chamber of Entrepreneurs Atameken, Nurzhan Altaev, noted the importance of strengthening business relations between the two fraternal peoples, which are entering a new level of alliance, interdependence, mutual support and joint promotion of common interests, Atameken reported.

“One of the main ideas of today’s forum is the joint exit and promotion of our products in the largest global markets, including China and the EEU [Eurasian Economic Union],” Altaev said. In his words, the unique geographical and climatic conditions of the two countries will allow them to compete and constantly increase volumes in these areas. “Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, so to speak, should” monetize “the potential of relations and economies,” he said, adding that this forum should become a generator of new ideas and a locomotive for the development of bilateral relations in the conquest of the markets of China and the EEU.

In January-July of 2017 the volume of trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan reached 1.055 billion USD.

Sergey Kwan

TCA