Monday, 19 March 2018 18:00

Uzbekistan is interested in high use of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars route, Sherzod Fayziev

 Caspian Energy (CE): Your Excellency, you have been heading a diplomatic mission of Uzbekistan in Azerbaijan for 6 years. How would you assess the relations between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan?  What could you tell about the relationship dynamics?

Sherzod Fayziev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Uzbekistan to the Republic of Azerbaijan: People in Uzbekistan are well familiar with Azerbaijan and take a sincere liking to its friendly people, impressive successes gained owing to a well-considered and pragmatic policy. The country is successfully implementing its policy aimed at strengthening foundations of the statehood, economic potential and international standing.  The role of the Honorable President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev in all this is invaluable.

Strengthening of relations with a key state in South Caucasus such as Azerbaijan has been one of the important and priority-driven directions of the foreign policy of Uzbekistan. Nowadays, we can state that close and brotherhood relations have been developed between the countries.

There is no doubt that close and trustworthy relations are based on deep, historical roots, common and similar national traditions, language and culture.

I would note that we saw a totally new stage in development of cooperation over the last years. Promotion of contacts in a wide range is evident. The number of mutual visits, made by representatives of official and business circles which resulted in reaching many agreements in different areas of Uzbek-Azerbaijani cooperation, increased several times in 2017 alone. In this context, noteworthy are the visits made to Baku by delegations from Uzbekistan and headed by Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov, First Deputy Chairman of the Senate of Majlis S.Safayev, Deputies Prime Minister T.Norbayev and A.Sultanov, Minister of Emergency situations R. Jurayev and Minister of Defense A.Azizov. Activation of cooperation between our countries in the religious sphere was a significant event of the past year. It was promoted by the conduction of the joint international conference “Islamic solidarity: the example of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan”. Chairman of the Caucasian Muslims Office Sheikh-ul-Islam Allahşükür Paşazade headed the Azerbaijani delegation at the event, consisting of prominent representatives of official, social-political and research circles. Headed by the state counselor of President R.Kamilov, the delegation of Uzbekistan, in its turn, visited Baku to attend the international conference “2017- the Islamic Solidarity Year: interreligious and intercultural dialogue”. Cooperation in cultural-humanitarian area remained on a high level in 2017. It was the period when the representatives of Uzbekistan attended the IV Islamic Solidarity Games hosted in Baku, the V International Contest of young singers of the Islamic countries classic music, International “Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week Baku 2017” within the delegation of representatives of “Sherg Libaslari” Design Center, International Mugam Festival within the delegation of children’s collective, etc. The Azerbaijani side also took an active part in the events hosted in Uzbekistan. Last year, the representatives of Azerbaijan attended the International Music Festival “Sherg Taraneleri” and became a winner of the festival Grand Prix, took part in the International Conference “Central-Asian Renaissance in history of the global civilization”, traditional culture festival “O’zbegim” and many other events.

I am confident that this trend will develop further in 2018. Now we are working actively over continuation of contacts on higher and high levels between the entrepreneurs and business circles of the two countries.

CE: What could you tell about current economic relations between the two countries?  In which areas do Uzbek companies plan to cooperate with Azerbaijan? Which do they find attractive?

Sherzod Fayziev: Deepening of trade-economic and investment relations is the priority of the bilateral cooperation, I would say even a starting point for the promotion of all other our mutual relations.

As is known, the international community is now focused on handling the consequences of the global financial-economic crisis. In this regard, issues concerning a joint plan of actions, strengthening of cooperation between enterprises and companies of our states, maintenance and increase of present commodity turnover rates between the two countries are of extreme importance.

Within the framework of solution of these tasks, our countries are actively using the opportunities of the Intergovernmental Commission for cooperation. Thus, 10 meetings have been held so far within the framework of this commission. The work on preparation for the 11th meeting is now underway. I am convinced that the results of this forth-coming meeting will give an additional momentum to the development of mutually-beneficial cooperation between our countries in trade-economic and investment areas.

We also find important to develop cooperation between industrial enterprises and business circles of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan. As an example, I can say that the Azerbaijani delegation headed by the President of the National Confederation of Entrepreneurs (Employers) Organizations of the Republic of Azerbaijan M.Musayev visited Uzbekistan in February 2018. A business forum, attended by over 20 representatives of large companies of Azerbaijan and over 50 heads of enterprises of Uzbekistan engaged in construction, trade, pharmaceuticals, packing, printing, ICT and other areas, was organized in this course of this visit.  At the end of the business forum, Trade-Industrial Chamber of Uzbekistan and Confederation signed an agreement on cooperation.

I have no doubts that the established contacts will develop further and become an important factor for expansion of the Uzbek-Azerbaijani business cooperation and promotion of mutually beneficial relations in trade-economic and other spheres.

CE: Are there plans to create joint ventures in Uzbekistan with the participation of the Azerbaijani capital?

Sherzod Fayziev: Before I answer this question, I would like to draw your attention to the following statistics. There are 84enterprises with the participation of the Azerbaijani investments, including 73 joint ventures, operating in Uzbekistan. They are engaged in such areas as trade, machine building, metalworking, finance, energy, provision of services, food and light industry.

In Azerbaijan, there are representative offices of the Uzbekistan Airways, Uzavtoprom AC producing broad range of light vehicles “Ravon”, as well as Artel Company producing high quality and competitive electric products.

In the meantime, all the above mentioned data about the number of joint ventures and operating companies is not a real reflection of the entire potential that our countries have.  In this regard, we are carrying out a certain work on creation of the joint ventures specialized in production of different types of products. Besides, the issue of opening a Trade House of Uzbekistan in Azerbaijan is under consideration.

We also find the cooperation in the field of investments promising. Using the opportunity, I would like to note that the administration of the President Shavkat Mirzoyev is attaching a particular importance to the establishment of the favorable business environment in Uzbekistan for foreign investors interested in implementing projects in our country. Given the measures taken to liberalize an economic sector, and the qualification and diligence of the Uzbek people, the most favorable conditions for opening business and making investments have been established in Uzbekistan at the modern stage.

Noteworthy in this context is also the increase of free economic zones (FEZ), as well as creation of 45 industrial zones which are considered drivers of the modern economy. The most favorable, privileged conditions for investors are available for investors within these FEZs. Production of textile, chemical, construction, furniture, food, electric and other products demanded by the domestic and external market have been established within these FEZs.

I am sure that conditions that are being created in Uzbekistan will draw attention of the business circles of Azerbaijan interested in establishment of mutually beneficial relations with partners from Uzbekistan.

CE: Is there a work on expansion of cooperation in the transport-communication sphere carried out?

Sherzod Fayziev: Of course this area is in the center of attention of our countries. The routes of transportation from Central Asia across the Caspian Sea and further towards the Caucasus are taking on particular importance. In this regard, broad use of the Trans-Caucasus transport corridor for transportation of increasing volumes of export-import cargoes is meeting the interests of our states. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway launched late in October 2017, as well as creation of infrastructure at the Baku international sea trade port which is under-construction in Alyat settlement is opening good opportunities to implement a huge transit and transport-communication potential of our countries and regions. I also would like to draw your attention to the fact that Prime Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulla Aripov headed the delegation of Uzbekistan at the solemn opening ceremony of Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway. This, in its turn, is persuasive evidence that the Uzbek side is interested in active use and increase of the transportation volume of its external trade cargoes along this corridor. We in our turn hope that Azerbaijan is also interested in use of the potential of Uzbekistan located in the heart of Central Asia and possessing an economic and strategic potential. In this regard, Navoi FEZ also serves as a good basis for deepening cooperation in transport-communication field.

Located on the important junction of automobile, railway and air lines, the airport of the city of Navoi links the South-East Asian states with Central and South Asia, Near East, as well as with the European states. The joint work on performance of inter-continental air transportation in future will be particularly beneficial for Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan.

CE: What could you say about Uzbekistan's cooperation with Azerbaijan in the energy sector?

Sherzod Fayziev: The positive trend has been also formed recently in this area. The last year was marked by active contacts between Uzbekneftegaz JSC and the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR), their participation in relevant international events held alternately in Tashkent and Baku. Equally important is the signing of relevant documents on cooperation. In particular, Uzbekneftegaz and SOCAR signed the Memorandum of Cooperation within the framework of the international Oil and Gas Uzbekistan Exhibition - OGU 2017 held in May 2017 in Tashkent.

In this regard, I believe that the practical implementation of these agreements will undoubtedly have a positive impact on the pace of development of the relations between our countries.

CE: In recent years tourism is getting a strong driver of the economic development of states. Could you please share information about the measures being taken in Uzbekistan in this area? Are any efforts being made to promote the ties between tourism companies of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan?

Sherzod Fayziev: Uzbekistan has the tremendous potential in tourism. Currently, there are more than 7,300 objects of cultural heritage in the republic, including more than 4,200 objects of archaeological heritage and more than 2,000 objects of architectural heritage. More than 500 of them are in the list of tour itineraries. 8 protected areas, 3 national nature parks, 6 state natural monuments and 11 reserve forests are also of great tourist potential. Within the framework of using this potential, in recent years a powerful regulatory and legal framework aimed at carrying out large-scale works to develop the sector of domestic tourism has been created in Uzbekistan. For example, according to the Decree of the Head of State “On measures to ensure the accelerated development of the tourism industry of the Republic of Uzbekistan” dated December 2, 2016, tourism is defined as a strategic branch of the economy of our country. The Presidential Decree dated August 16, 2017 approved the Program of Priority Measures for the Development of Tourism for 2018-2019.

It also should be noted that the adoption of four important documents concerning this sector by the President in February of this year is the embodiment of the high attention paid by the state to the development of tourism. These documents set the priority tasks for addressing accumulated problems within the industry, increasing the tourist potential, and providing many benefits and preferences for a future development of the domestic tourism. As a result of the fulfillment of the above-mentioned instructions, the range and scope of services provided by the national travel companies, the total number of which currently comprises around 600, have increased notably. Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva and Shakhrisabz are the declared safe tourism zones, the free tourist zone Charvak has been created in the Tashkent region. At the same time active and purposeful work is carried out in Uzbekistan to promote pilgrimage tourism. I would also like to emphasize that the following decisions of the Government of Uzbekistan had a big resonance among the international community: on February 10, 2018, the visa-free regime for 30 days was established for the citizens of Israel, Indonesia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Turkey and Japan; the procedure for issuing visas to citizens of 39 countries has been simplified; electronic visas will be introduced from July 1, 2018. Turning to your question about relations between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan in the field of tourism, I can say that this area does not remain out of sight of our countries. Currently, tourist companies establish partnerships, including those in the implementation of projects for arranging tourist trips. In this regard, I express the hope that representatives of fraternal Azerbaijan will soon become one of the leaders visiting sunny and hospitable Uzbekistan.

CE: And the last question. We are on the eve of the great holiday Novruz. What would you like to wish our readers on this occasion?

Sherzod Fayziev: For all of us Novruz is the beginning of a new year in the Eastern calendar, the symbol of good aspirations and hopes for a rich harvest, abundance and prosperity, the most ancient holiday beloved by our peoples, the integral part of our spirituality and national values. The spirit and philosophy of Novruz have always helped people to live in harmony with their motherland and nature, awakening in the heart of every person, regardless of nationality and religion, the desire for creation and prosperity, for strengthening harmony and unity in society. That is why we all look forward to this bright and wonderful holiday with such impatience, we strive to show our noblest motives and boundless joy.

Taking this pleasant opportunity, I wish sincerely, from all my heart, to congratulate all residents of fraternal Azerbaijan and wish them peace and calm, prosperity and further progress.

Thank you for the interview

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