Saudi Arabia a perfect partner for ‘New Uzbekistan’
Relations between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia are well established. The visit of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Riyadh in May 2017 opened a new page in their bilateral relations.
The Kingdom was one of the first countries to recognize the independence of Uzbekistan on Dec. 30, 1991. A memorandum of understanding for the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries was signed on Feb. 20, 1992, during the visit to Uzbekistan of then-Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.
Uzbekistan was keen to develop bilateral relations with the Kingdom and the first Uzbek president visited Saudi Arabia in April 1992, when talks were held with the Saudi king.
In November 1992, Uzbekistan opened its consulate in Jeddah and then, in May 1995, the Uzbek Embassy was opened in Riyadh. The Kingdom opened its embassy in Tashkent in March 1997.
This year, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. On this occasion, congratulatory telegrams have been exchanged between the Uzbek and Saudi foreign ministers.
Great appreciation has been expressed for the efforts of the parties in expanding the scope of bilateral relations and guaranteeing mutually beneficial and long-term cooperation between our two countries.
Since the beginning of Uzbek-Saudi relations, the two sides have paid special attention to the development of their cooperation and have signed many agreements in the fields of political affairs, economy, trade, investments, technology, culture, youth, sports, avoidance of double taxation, air transport, protection and the promotion of investments.
Currently, the process of preparing new agreements for signing between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia is underway. There will be 15 initial ones, including four agreements between the two governments and eight between the relevant ministries and departments.
At the same time, the conferences of the Saudi-Uzbek intergovernmental joint committee play an important role in the development and activation of economic, investment and cultural, scientific, technical and social cooperation between the two countries.
The fifth session of the joint commission was held in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in March. The delegation of the Kingdom, which included officials from government agencies and private sector leaders, was headed by Minister of Investment Khalid Al-Falih. Uzbek and Saudi members discussed ways to cooperate in the sectors of health, agriculture, trade, energy and petrochemicals.
During the meeting, promising opportunities for the economic and investment growth of Saudi and Uzbek companies in both countries were reviewed. There was also a meeting of the Saudi-Uzbek Business Council, in which representatives of both the Kingdom’s and Uzbekistan’s private sectors had the aim of promoting and developing business between the two friendly countries.
This year, we are celebrating the 30th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
Over the past few years, the Saudi Fund for Development has helped and supported a large number of projects in Uzbekistan.
One of the most important has been the construction of the Samarkand-Gozar road, for which the fund has contributed $30 million of the total $100 million cost.
The Saudi Fund for Development has also contributed to financing the construction of secondary schools and medical centers, as well as technical equipment for the latter, in addition to financing projects for drilling wells in the country. About 20 projects have been implemented in Uzbekistan so far with the support of the fund. They cover the fields of healthcare, education, energy, transport and public utilities development in Uzbekistan.
Meanwhile, Uzbek-Saudi political relations are based on trust and the desire of both parties to further develop and deepen their mutually beneficial and equal cooperation.
The official visit in July 2021 of Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan to Uzbekistan confirmed the great interest in activating bilateral relations and, at the same time, serving the interests of our countries.
Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia have similar approaches to many regional and international issues, as well as similar positions on regional security and countering modern threats and challenges. Our two countries continue to exercise mutual support for each other’s positions and candidacies within the framework of international organizations.
For example, Uzbekistan supported the candidacies of Saudi Arabia for membership on the UN Economic and Social Council for the period 2019-2021, the Human Rights Council (2020), the Executive Board of UNESCO (2019), the World Heritage Committee (2019) and others. In 2020, Saudi Arabia supported Uzbekistan’s election to the UN Human Rights Council.
Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia and their diplomatic missions are focusing all their efforts on strengthening and intensifying bilateral cooperation in the priority areas of increasing the volume of trade exchanges, expanding investment partnerships, implementing joint economic, cultural and humanitarian projects, scientific and educational exchanges, and others.
I would like to draw attention to the fact that Uzbekistan has become a country of democratic change and has set itself the strategic goal of building a “New Uzbekistan” under the leadership of President Mirziyoyev, who is laying the foundations of the country’s “third renaissance.”
Saudi Arabia is a unique and ancient country and at the same time a modern one that is implementing Vision 2030, which aims to diversify its economy and develop the sectors of health, education, infrastructure, entertainment and tourism. It is doing this by intensifying economic and investment activity inside and outside the Kingdom. Successful cooperation between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia is developing in all these areas.
The government of Uzbekistan supports Vision 2030, which is concerned with development and is consistent with the strategy for building a new Uzbekistan, aimed at reforms and liberalization of the economy, as well as creating an attractive economic climate for investments.
• Ulugbek Maksudov is Uzbekistan’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia