President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, friends, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,
During these talks with President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, we had a detailed discussion of a broad range of bilateral issues and exchanged views, as was already said, on the international agenda.
The relations between Russia and Uzbekistan continue their steady development and are genuinely friendly and mutually advantageous. They are based on our common history and the close ties between our peoples. This year marks the 10th anniversary of the signing of our interstate agreement on strategic partnership, and next year will mark a decade since we signed the agreement on alliance. This is the solid foundation on which we are building our constructive political dialogue, strengthening our economic contacts and expanding our humanitarian ties.
Russia is a key business partner for Uzbekistan. As Mr Karimov just mentioned, Russia accounts for nearly a third of Uzbekistan’s foreign trade. Russian investment has grown to more than $6 billion over the last five years. Our bilateral trade continues its steady growth and last year reached a figure of $4 billion. It increased by 8 percent over January-September this year and came to more than $3 billion. This is a positive trend despite the external situation.
These are good results but there is still plenty of room for growth. Incidentally, during the talks today we noted that our trade structure is changing for the better and higher value-added goods now account for a greater share. This is good to see but there is still potential we can develop. The main priorities for developing our cooperation are set out in the agreement on priority areas for developing economic cooperation over 2015–2019, which was signed following our talks. This document outlines our main objectives over the upcoming period and sets out the support mechanisms for our joint programmes.
We are seeing the real positive effects of Uzbekistan’s joining the CIS free trade zone. The protocol on this matter came into force in 2013. This removes the barriers to free movement of goods, builds stronger production chains, and increases investment flows.
We agreed today to start consultations on possible signing of a free trade zone agreement between Uzbekistan and the Eurasian Economic Union. Let me stress that we are talking about only consultations, only the start of work, but as Mr Karimov said just now, our aim is to ensure that no problems arise that could hinder our cooperation in developing various forms of cooperation in the post-Soviet area.
The agreement on settling reciprocal financial claims will help to expand our economic ties. The talks on this agreement were lengthy and we debated the issue quite intensely as Uzbekistan and Russia each stuck to their own view, but as should be the way with good friends and partners, we found solutions that were acceptable to each side and have now turned this page.
We expect that implementation of plans to increase agricultural produce supplies from Uzbekistan to the Russian market will make a noticeable contribution to deepening our bilateral trade. This will also give impetus to Uzbekistan’s plans to develop infrastructure for the agricultural processing industry.
What are needed are good, big companies that will be partners for Russian counter-partners and, as Mr Karimov said during our talks, ensure long-term and stable presence of Uzbekistan’s producers on the Russian market.
We discussed in detail the prospects for energy sector cooperation. Some solid work has already been accomplished in this sector. Russian oil and gas companies are working successfully in Uzbekistan.
LUKOIL, for example, together with its Uzbekistani partners, is developing a group of gas-condensate deposits in the Bukhara region. This project is planned over a timeframe through to 2039, with up to $5 billion invested over this time. There are also plans to build a large gas treatment plant with capacity to process 8 billion cubic metres of gas a year.
Gazprom is also building up its activities. Over recent years, Gazprom has invested $390 million in geological exploration. This has already produced some real results, such as the opening of the Dzhel natural gas field, which has reserves of 6.4 billion cubic metres. This will certainly increase Uzbekistan’s potential not just in gas production but in the energy sector in general.
I am also pleased to see the progress in our nuclear energy cooperation. The work to shift Uzbekistan’s research reactors over to low-enriched uranium fuel is going according to plan. In April, an intergovernmental agreement was signed on sending to Russia irradiated nuclear material from Tashkent’s Photon research reactor. This programme will start operation next year.
We have good potential in industry too, especially in machine-building for the energy sector. Our company Power Machines is taking part in modernising the Charvak Hydroelectric Power Station near Tashkent. Technical modernisation of two units at the Syrdarya Thermal Power Station with capacity of 300 MW each will be completed by the end of this year.
Russian business is interested in deepening our cooperation in high-tech sectors. Our investors have already put more than $200 million into developing Uzbekistan’s telecommunications networks.
The biggest project in our science and technology cooperation is construction on Uzbekistan’s territory of the Suffa international radio astronomy observatory. It will be equipped with the largest RT-70 radio telescope, which will make it possible to carry out unique scientific research, including in space communications.
We reaffirmed our mutual desire to expand our exchanges in culture, sports, tourism, and environmental protection. Russia’s top universities have branches working successfully in Tashkent. This year, 212 Russian state scholarships were granted to students from Uzbekistan, and the total number of students from Uzbekistan studying in Russia comes to 12,000, as I mentioned at the expanded format meeting. We will continue to develop our ties in the education sector.
The Russian Science and Culture Centre in Tashkent has a busy agenda. We soon plan to adopt the culture ministries’ joint cooperation programme for 2015–2017. We thank the President of Uzbekistan for his support in this area of our joint work.
As already noted, we exchanged views on building up our foreign policy coordination, above all within the UN, CIS, and Shanghai Cooperation Organisation.
Particularly important now is our cooperation in ensuring peace and stability in Central Asia. We share the President of Uzbekistan’s concerns about the events in Afghanistan. At the same time, we note that an effective high-level consultation mechanism on this issue is already in place. These consultations place priority attention on fighting the terrorist threat and preventing drug trafficking.
We approved today the programme for cooperation between our countries’ foreign ministries for 2015. This programme will make our work together in this area more effective.
We discussed the new opportunities for developing trade and investment ties that the Eurasian Economic Union will open up when it begins operation next year. I already mentioned the possible consultations on signing an agreement on a free trade zone between the EEU and Uzbekistan.
I would like to conclude by once again thanking President of Uzbekistan Mr Karimov for his hospitality and this very friendly and warm reception. I am sure that the results of our talks will help to further develop the Russian-Uzbekistani alliance and strategic partnership.
Thank you for your attention.