BAKU, Azerbaijan, February 27. The dynamic progress achieved in cooperation between Central Asia and Azerbaijan is ongoing. The attention President Ilham Aliyev pays to a partnership with the each of Central Asian economies has led to strengthening crucial links between the two major regions on the global map.
Over the recent years, relations between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have reached a qualitatively new stage of development, gaining "strategic depth". New prospects for mutually beneficial cooperation are opening up. The basis for this is a large-scale contractual and legal framework, comprising over 130 interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements.
President Ilham Aliyev visited Uzbekistan three times just over the last year - on June 21-22, with a state visit, on September 15-16, to take part in the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member countries in Samarkand as an honored guest. The third visit took place on November 10-11 on the occasion of the Summit of the Organization of Turkic States.
During President Ilham Aliyev’s visit in June 2022, a number of important documents defining the further development of relations between the two countries were signed. Among them is the Declaration on Deepening Strategic Partnership and Increasing Comprehensive Cooperation, which opens a new stage in bilateral relations. This document identifies the most important fields, such as the expansion of trade and industrial cooperation. In addition to transport and logistics cooperation, the parties agreed on the joint development of the agricultural sector. Cooperation in the military and military-political sphere will also be one of the priorities.
Meanwhile, the First Uzbek-Azerbaijani Interregional Forum was held in Tashkent on February 25, with the support of the Ministry of Investments, Industry and Trade of Uzbekistan and the Ministry of Economy of Azerbaijan.
Within the framework of the forum, the sides signed an intergovernmental agreement on the establishment of a $500 million joint investment fund, which will play a significant role in economic cooperation, the implementation of new joint investment projects, and the creation of new job places.
A number of significant documents were signed during the forum. A roadmap for 2023-2025 to expand practical cooperation in trade, economic, scientific, technical, cultural, and humanitarian spheres was signed between the Tashkent Executive Power and the Baku Executive Power Baku. Moreover, Azerbaijan’s Export and Investment Promotion Agency (AZPROMO) and the Agency for Regulation of the Alcohol and Tobacco Market and the Development of Winemaking of Uzbekistan have signed an MoU.
Besides, Azerbaijan’s Small and Medium Business Development Agency (SMBDA) has signed an MoU with Uzbek Economy Ministry on joint development of small and medium-sized businesses, women's entrepreneurship, public-private partnerships, experience exchange and many more.
The signed documents also include an MoU and cooperation agreement between AzerGold CJSC and the Ministry of Mining and Geology of Uzbekistan, a memorandum of cooperation between Mega Invest Industrial and NABUCCO A&C companies, as well as a cooperation agreement between Cahan Industrial Complex LLC and Azimut Plus company.
Moreover, over recent years, the automotive industry has become one of the main pillars of the Azerbaijani-Uzbek partnership. On September 17, 2021, Uzbek UzAuto Motors, together with the Azerbaijani Azermash automobile manufacturing plant, launched large-node assembly production of Chevrolet cars in the Hajigabul district of Azerbaijan. Currently, about 2,700 units of Chevrolet cars have been produced at the plant.
In 2023, the sides set a goal to increase production to 5,000 cars by switching from large-node assembly production to a full production cycle. In addition, UzAuto Motors launched the production of new models of Chevrolet Onix cars in 2023. The automaker plans to release more than 50,000 units of this model in 2023. By the end of March, Uzbekistan plans to launch the production of Chevrolet Onix cars at the Azermash plant.
Given Azerbaijan's location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Uzbekistan considers the country a "gateway to the European market". In 2022, Uzbekistan sent its first container block train to Europe via Azerbaijan via the CASCA+ multimodal transport route. A block train consisting of 91 containers of 20 feet each, with copper concentrate, was transported from Baku to the Bulgarian port of Burgas. The container train plied the route with a total length of more than four thousand kilometers "Uzbekistan - Turkmenistan - Azerbaijan - Georgia - Bulgaria/Europe". At the end of 2022, the expansion of cooperation between dry ports operating in Uzbekistan and the Baku Port was discussed.
Meanwhile, the trade turnover between Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan in 2022 amounted to $181.9 million. Exports from Uzbekistan to Azerbaijan over the past year amounted to $132.3 million, while imports accounted for $49.5 million. In January 2023 alone, the trade turnover between the two countries exceeded $11 million. At the same time, the sides are aimed at boosting the bilateral trade to over $1 billion over the next five years.
The number of joint ventures has quadrupled in recent years. There are 238 enterprises with Azerbaijani capital operating in Uzbekistan, engaged in trade, mechanical engineering and metalworking, finance and insurance, real estate transactions, energy, services, jewelry production and repair, food industry, light industry and pharmaceuticals. In turn, 53 Uzbek companies are operating in Azerbaijan, with the participation of which numerous projects are being implemented.
Uzbekistan also has not stayed aside from the reconstruction works in Karabakh, liberated from Armenian occupation back in 2020. President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, speaking at an informal summit of the Turkic Council in March 2021, said that Uzbekistan is ready to participate in the reconstruction works in the liberated lands, mainly, in the restoration of ancient monuments, mosques, cultural and educational facilities. The country is currently engaged in the construction of a brand-new 960-seat school in the Fuzuli district, which is expected to be commissioned this year.
The cooperation between Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan within the Organization of Turkic States is worth attention. The summit of the organization held in Samarkand on November 11, 2022, with the participation of President Ilham Aliyev became the starting point for a new stage of interaction between the countries of the Turkic world. This is, basically, a transition from cooperation to integration.
The far-sighted policy of President Ilham Aliyev became the decisive factor that led to the organization's establishment, and this structure is now considered one of the most effective platforms allowing it to solve tasks vital for its member countries.
Similar priorities provide a solid foundation for building long-term sustainable cooperation in strategic directions. In this regard, Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, which play an important leading role in their regions - Central Asia and the South Caucasus, can and should become the locomotives of interregional cooperation. In this context, President Ilham Aliyev's efforts to establish long-term peace, security, and stability in the region are of the most importance. The restoration works launched by Azerbaijan in the liberated lands, including with the participation of the Uzbek side, will lead to opening up new transportation links, turning the region into a place of mutually beneficial cooperation, and creating new prospects for strengthening interregional ties.