President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr Mirziyoyev, colleagues, friends,
Let me wish you welcome once again, this time in expanded format.
I have just had substantive talks in narrow format with the President. We examined practically the entire range of our relations. But it is always useful to hear from our colleagues, listen to heads of our ministries and agencies, who work together directly at the ministry and agency level. Hence this meeting in this format.
It does not matter if there is some repetition. I am sure that people engaged in practical work will always have something to say and can bring to our attention areas of our joint work that can be made more effective. I am sure that we still have potential to develop.
Let me wish you all welcome once again.
President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev: Thank you.
Mr Putin, colleagues,
First of all, please accept my sincere condolences following the loss of life in the terrorist attack in St Petersburg.
As you rightly noted, we discussed the various matters in narrow format just before, and examined the various issues on the agenda today. I think that if we repeat ourselves a little, it will be useful for our colleagues.
Mr Putin, I want to thank you once again for the invitation to make this state visit to Russia, and also for the very open and trusting discussion that we just had. It is no exaggeration to say that we see this meeting as a new step in developing and strengthening the strategic partnership and alliance between our countries. We consider Russia a great power in the political, military technical, economic, spiritual and cultural sense, a country that plays a key part on the international stage.
During our talks just before, I discussed with Mr Putin in open and trusting fashion a very broad range of issues that are currently of concern. I am happy to say that our views and approaches coincide on practically all issues on the agenda. We place priority importance in giving new concrete and practical substance to our earlier documents on strategic partnership and alliance.
We examined current issues in regional politics, above all peaceful settlement of the situation in Afghanistan. We had a detailed exchange of views on this. Practically all countries involved in Afghanistan share the common view that there can be no military solution to the problem. The only solution is peaceful political talks between the main parties to the conflict under the aegis of the United Nations.
We are following closely Russia’s efforts on the international stage to find solutions to the conflict in Afghanistan. As I said, Uzbekistan fully supports Russia’s efforts to advance the national reconciliation process in Afghanistan and will take part in the expanded meeting on the situation in Afghanistan on April 14 in Moscow.
We have also agreed on the need to chart a joint course of action to neutralise transnational threats and challenges to regional security in a timely manner, including within the framework of international and regional organisations. Our countries have a united, coordinated position on issues related to developing a fair water use system in Central Asia, which we also addressed in depth today. It is very important to continue our cooperation on these issues in keeping with the UN draft conventions on the use of water resources of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers. I believe – and we have also discussed this – that this is very serious, and it is necessary to address these issues under the aegis of the UN, according to the letter of the law, as put forward by UN experts.
Priority in strengthening Uzbekistan-Russia strategic partnership is naturally given to expanding mutually beneficial military and defence technology cooperation. As such, it is important to begin the practical implementation of the Treaty on the Development of Military-Technical Cooperation, which was signed in November 2016. Last week, Uzbekistan ratified this document. We are pleased to note that the state procedure that we have mentioned is also nearing completion in Russia and its ratification is due to take place within a matter of days.
Our priorities include the expansion of supplies of military equipment to Uzbekistan, its servicing at Russian enterprises on mutually beneficial terms and the implementation of joint projects with the participation of the Rostec state corporation.
Mr Putin, Mr Chemezov [Rostec CEO] is present here. With regard to Rostec, we have mapped out serious plans in the military and civilian sphere, sharing experience on the development of military capability and training and retraining programmes for our service personnel.
I would also like to briefly address some of the most important issues of trade and economic cooperation: the diversification and drastic expansion of bilateral trade. Last year it was worth over $4 billion. However, these figures absolutely do not measure up to the potential of our economies, and we would like to raise this figure to $5 billion before the end of the year, because there are grounds for bringing [it] to $5 billion this year. This concerns a significant expansion in natural gas supplies to Russia, based on a five-year contract, which was signed for the first time; textile production, based on direct contracts without mediators; supplies of fresh and processed vegetables along a “green corridor”; and cars, by establishing industrial assembly lines in Russia, as well as other industrial goods.
For our part, we are interested in supplies of technological equipment from Russia. For the first time, Russian companies are participating in establishing modern industrial production facilities in Uzbekistan, based on advanced technology, on a turnkey basis, the terms that we, Mr Putin, have just discussed: engineering products (we are buying excavators), oil, rolled metal, pipes and timber, among other things. We are committed to the full-scale implementation of the agreements within the framework of the CIS Free Trade Zone Treaty.
I would like to say that we have made a decision to reduce or abolish excise taxes on a number of Russian goods: commercial vehicles, rolled steel, foodstuffs and construction materials. We are convinced that our further efforts to foster mutually beneficial conditions will make it possible to significantly expand our trade and economic cooperation and considerably increase bilateral trade.
We see major potential in diversifying the portfolio of Russian investment in the Uzbek economy. This is a very important priority for us. We are interested in implementing promising projects, such as geological prospecting and developing raw material deposits, establishing modern natural gas processing enterprises in the Surxondaryo and Qashqardaryo provinces, the oil refineries in the Dzhizak region that we just talked about, setting up steel-making facilities in Karakalpakstan, a copper enrichment complex and a metallurgical plant in the Tashkent region, creating high-tech textile and pharmaceutical production facilities and fruit and vegetable processing projects, among other things.
I am pleased to note that during this visit we have signed a package of agreements on implementing major investment projects worth $12 billion and trade contracts worth $3.8 billion. Mr Putin, this has never happened before. This is the real result of the work that we have done in conjunction with colleagues from Russia over the past three to four months.
The meetings between the companies of our countries held during these days showed serious interest and mutual desire to expand practical cooperation and develop specific projects. In this regard, we suggest holding regular joint business forums and business missions. Mr Putin, you suggested doing so today, and I think it will be a great platform. We agreed that we will hold a forum in Uzbekistan next year. We invited you, and you agreed. I think you will take part in it, and it will be the first forum in Uzbekistan attended by our business partners, and we will run a check on everything ourselves. It will be the right thing to do. Thank you very much for accepting our invitation.
Cooperation in the sphere of transport and transit is of strategic importance to us. I am confident that flexible tariff policy and expanded use of privileges and preferences in transportation and transit of goods will significantly improve our competitiveness and ensure the effective use of existing regional transport corridor capacities.
We consider developing interregional contacts a new and very promising area. Mutual agreements between the regions of Uzbekistan and St Petersburg, the Moscow, the Leningrad, the Chelyabinsk, the Sverdlovsk, and the Novosibirsk regions, as well as the republics of Tatarstan and Bashkortostan, to name a few, convincingly demonstrate its bright prospects and effectiveness.
Mr Putin, these meetings speak volumes to us. The first meetings between the leaders and our respective regional businesses have already yielded serious results. I think today's agreement on interregional cooperation will facilitate practical partnership between the regions of our countries and provide the kind of fertile ground that we agreed upon with you. When we are holding the first large interregional business forum in Tashkent, I think we will have things to discuss, because the work is already underway.
We attach great importance to effective cooperation on labour migration. We are convinced that the adoption of intergovernmental agreement on the organised recruitment of Uzbekistani citizens to work temporarily in Russia will facilitate the development of cooperation based on universally recognised international practice. This day has been long in the making. After 10 years of difficult talks, today we can say that this is a hard-won joint document, which we also talked about at our meeting in narrow format. This is really a hard-won document.
In the tourism industry, we can see that Russian citizens are really interested in visiting Uzbekistan’s ancient cities, including Samarkand, Bukhara, Khiva and Tashkent, which have a thousand-year history and are located on the Silk Road.
I would also like to inform you that we have accepted the Russian side’s proposal to organise additional flights to Samarkand by Aeroflot Airlines. I am confident that this will primarily help increase the number of Russian tourists coming to our country. This question was not resolved for many years. We took a strong-willed decision, and I think that the Uzbekistan Airways and the Russian side have already signed off on the launch of this flight.
Active cultural and humanitarian cooperation also shows the level and nature of our relations. About one million citizens of Russian nationality live in Uzbekistan. The Republican Russian Culture Centre with branches in the country’s regions is very popular among the general public. Russian-language education is available at 836 schools and almost all universities in Uzbekistan. Numerous mass media, culture and art institutions operate in the Russian language. During the recent visit to Uzbekistan of the Russian delegation headed by Special Presidential Envoy for International Cultural Cooperation Mikhail Shvydkoi, the Centre for Russian Language and Literature was opened in Tashkent. The expansion of such ties certainly contributes to the mutual enrichment of the cultures of our peoples. In this respect, the unique exhibition of masterpieces from the Savitsky State Arts Museum, which is being held for the first time at the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts, and which we will visit today, Mr President, is of special significance.
I would like to note the successful activity in Uzbekistan of the branches of Moscow State University, the Plekhanov Russian University of Economics and the Gubkin Russian State University of Oil and Gas, which make a valuable contribution to training highly qualified specialists for our countries. I would like to stress that we are interested in further developing our ties with Russian higher education institutions and research centres.
Healthcare is another important area. Today we are signing an intergovernmental agreement providing for full-scale cooperation in this sphere, including areas such as medical training and science. Furthermore, we have already signed over 10 agreements between leading healthcare organisations in our countries. Once again I would like (I have already told you), in the presence of our entire delegation, to express our appreciation to [Russian Healthcare Minister] Ms Veronika Skvortsova for addressing this in a personal, human manner. I believe that the agreements that were signed, as I have told you, will lay a solid groundwork for our ties, and we will also work on this.
Mr Putin, I would like to once again thank you for the invitation – this is the first state visit of the Uzbek leadership to Russia – and for your hospitality. I believe that the results of today’s visit will be momentous indeed, because, as we have agreed, there are good prerequisites, viable projects and there is the genuine desire on both sides to move forward in many areas.
I would like to thank you once again. Thank you very much for making this visit possible. A lot of issues were resolved already during the preparations for it. On all issues that remained, you have issued instructions today. I believe that following your instructions, the results of today’s visit will be highly productive.
Once again, I would like to express my appreciation to you.
Thank you very much.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you very much.