President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, colleagues, friends,
Our talks with the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan took place in a friendly and constructive spirit, as has been our practice for many years now.
We had a very substantive agenda and held detailed discussions covering all different aspects of our political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian cooperation. We exchanged views on the content and future directions in the integration processes taking place in the post-Soviet area and within the CIS, and on current international issues.
We give a high assessment of our bilateral economic ties. Our bilateral trade grew last year. Our figures put it at around $4 billion, and our Uzbekistani colleagues put it at $7 billion. Of course we can clarify these figures, but one thing is clear and that is that our trade is growing, especially this year, where we already have an increase of 20 percent over January alone.
Russia is in first place among Uzbekistan’s foreign trade partners. We account for almost 30 percent of Uzbekistan’s foreign trade, and Uzbekistan is among Russia’s top five economic partners in the CIS region.
The conditions have been agreed in principle for Uzbekistan’s accession to the Commonwealth of Independent States Free Trade Zone Agreement, and this is an important step. We expect that the according protocol will be signed at the upcoming meeting of the CIS Council of Heads of Government in Minsk on May 31.
Investment cooperation is also gathering pace. Total Russian investment in Uzbekistan’s economy over the last five years comes to around $6 billion.
”Our talks with the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan took place in a friendly and constructive spirit. We had a very substantive agenda.“
Around 850 joint ventures operate in Uzbekistan, as well as the accredited branches of more than 100 Russian companies, including Gazprom, LUKOIL and others.
The intergovernmental economic cooperation programme for 2013–2017 that we just signed will encourage reciprocal capital flows and create reliable legal protection for investors from both countries, as will the agreement on incentives and mutual protection of investment.
Interregional cooperation plays a big part in strengthening our bilateral ties. Seventy Russian regions have close cooperation ties with partners in Uzbekistan. The most active in this area are Moscow, Voronezh Region, Bashkortostan, Chelyabinsk, Irkutsk and Sverdlovsk Regions, and St Petersburg.
Of course, we should continue building up the ties between our educational, scientific and cultural institutions. Our intergovernmental programme for cooperation in culture and humanitarian fields and in science and technology for 2013–2015 will help to develop these ties.
We know the care and attention Uzbekistan gives to studying and supporting the Russian language, and I want to particularly thank Mr Karimov for this.
Mr Karimov and I exchanged views on the main regional and international issues. Our countries have the same or close views in many respects, and this helps us to successfully defend our common interests in the United Nations and develop constructive cooperation within the CIS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and other international organisations.
We discussed in detail the situation in Central Asia of course, and spoke about the issues related to the withdrawal of international coalition forces from Afghanistan in 2014. We agreed to keep monitoring this issue closely and coordinate possible future joint steps, in particular the possibility of providing any needed assistance to Afghanistan’s leadership to help stabilise the military and political situation and fight drug trafficking, terrorism and extremism.
We will continue our close cooperation with Tashkent in all different areas. We place priority importance on these ties.
I think this has been a successful visit. I thank our Uzbekistani colleagues and President Karimov personally for the constructive, business-like and at the same time friendly exchange of information and for the frank and open spirit in which our talks and all of work took place today.
Thank you very much for your attention.
President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,
”Our countries have the same or close views in many respects, and this helps us to successfully defend our common interests in the United Nations and develop constructive cooperation within the CIS, Shanghai Cooperation Organisation and other international organisations.“
First of all, I want to thank sincerely President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin for the invitation to make an official visit to Moscow, and for the warm reception and hospitality that Uzbekistan’s delegation has received.
We see this visit as the needed and logical continuation of our bilateral political dialogue and our summit meetings that aim to strengthen and deepen our ties and give practical content to our basic agreements on strategic partnership and alliance.
I think there is no need today to convince anyone that growing globalisation, the fast-changing situation in the world around us, continued rise in tension, rivalry and confrontation in the world, and terrorism and extremism are all making their impact felt in Central Asia too. This is the reality that we all have to deal with today.
The upcoming withdrawal of peacekeepers from Afghanistan after 2014 (the process has essentially already begun) could lead in my opinion to negative developments in the region. We cannot deny these problems. The facts speak for themselves.
In this context the talks with the President of Russia were very substantive and gave us the chance to critically assess the state of our bilateral cooperation, its prospects and real possibilities, and also the real state of affairs in the region at this time when the situation is changing very fast. These talks are very important indeed for us.
I am happy to see that our assessments and views on almost all of the issues we examined are very similar on the whole. Our common interests and cooperation for the benefit of our peoples knit thousands of invisible threads between us, bringing us closer together, and this something that no one can deny.
Russia has an indisputably important part to play in resolving today’s big issues: preserving the global strategic balance; non-proliferation of nuclear weapons; energy security; and combating terrorism, extremism, drug trafficking and other threats. We firmly believe that Russia’s presence in Central Asia is an important factor in cementing peace and stability and preventing the creeping (I choose this word in reference to the broad sense and content this issue involves) expansion of extremism and radicalism in the region, and not in our region alone. Radicalism is growing all around the world.
Uzbekistan seeks to expand and deepen its cooperation with Russia in the UN, SCO, CIS and other influential international organisations. In this respect I want to express my particular respect for Russia’s place and role in further developing the CIS. It is our firm belief that the CIS has far from exhausted its resources and possibilities. Its future, role and significance will depend above all upon Russia’s involvement and interest.
Developing our economic, innovation and trade cooperation was also a major issue on our agenda. It is good to see that despite the continued global financial and economic crisis, our bilateral trade reached a figure of $7.6 billion in 2012 and increased by 12.6 percent. It grew by 20 percent over the first quarter of 2013. I take this opportunity to thank you personally, Mr Putin, for Russia’s support for Uzbekistan’s accession to the CIS Free Trade Zone Agreement.
It is a great pleasure to say here once again in your presence that we have invited President Putin to make an official visit to Uzbekistan at any convenient moment. We have always considered his visits with great respect and every meeting with him always gives me great pleasure. I asked Mr Putin the name of this hall just before.
”We will continue our close cooperation with Tashkent in all different areas. We place priority importance on these ties.“
Vladimir Putin: It’s the Malachite Hall.
Islam Karimov: Yes, the Malachite Hall. It brings back memories. Many, many years ago I took part in many various events in this hall. I have also many memories of this hall from the times when we had already become representatives of two sovereign countries. It was always a great pleasure to meet here with the Russian leadership. And my meetings with Mr Putin have always been a particular pleasure.
I am pleased that we have had this very important and much needed conversation today. I have indeed received serious and substantial answers to our questions. Today, as always, I was most interested to hear the Russian President’s and Russian leadership’s view of the difficult and hard to predict situations in Afghanistan and the neighbouring countries.
Let me explain this creeping expansion I mentioned. The heart of the matter is that although no one can and wants to declare war on anyone else, this creeping expansion is so dangerous because it is very difficult to stop. There are no universal rules on when to establish borders and take measures on not letting people into your country and so on. But this creeping expansion is called ‘creeping’ precisely because it seeps through regardless of anything.
This is especially dangerous when we are talking about ideological confrontation, especially religious confrontation, religious fanaticism. What is a fanatic? A fanatic is someone already so rigidly set in their own views that they hold nothing else sacred and in some cases can hardly be called human. They are so zombified that they understand only the aims and goals set for them by others, who do not expose their own selves to the risks involved.
What we see happening with suicide bombers and so on is a sign of the growing radicalism around the world. We all know that this began in North Africa, the Persian Gulf region and so forth, but it seeks to spread into regions that the people behind it deem fitting. We are feeling this in Central Asia.
We already see signs of these goals, these desires, and we know that there are many forces, political forces, serious ideological forces, that would like to carry out their far-reaching plans. The completion of withdrawal of the ISAF forces from Afghanistan in 2014 could not only lead to civil war in Afghanistan itself, but, most important, it could increase tension throughout this whole vast region. It is hard to find anyone today who would be able to tell us now what things will be like in Afghanistan by the end of this year or the end of next year.
We were therefore very keen to hear Russia’s views on this issue. I am entirely happy with what I heard at today’s talks and with our exchange of views with the Russian leadership.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.