Vladimir Putin met for talks in the Kremlin with President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, who is in Russia on an official visit.
The presidents of Russia and Uzbekistan also discussed the further development of bilateral relations in many areas and cooperation in the framework of the CIS and SCO. They exchanged opinions on current issues of the regional and international agenda.
A number of documents were signed in the two leaders’ presence following the Russian-Uzbekistani consultations. These documents include an intergovernmental agreement on cooperation in the export of military products to other countries; an intergovernmental programme of cultural and humanitarian cooperation for 2016–2018; a programme of cooperation between the foreign ministries of Russia and Uzbekistan for 2016–2017; a memorandum of understanding between the Russian Sport Ministry and the Uzbekistani Culture and Sport Ministry on cooperation in physical training and sport; and an agreement on research and academic cooperation between the Bauman Moscow State Technical University and the Tashkent Institute of Railway Engineering.
Vladimir Putin and Islam Karimov also made statements for the press.
Beginning of talks with President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, friends. Allow me to welcome you to Moscow once again, this time in a more official setting.
Yesterday we had an opportunity to meet informally, just the two of us, tete-a-tete, as diplomats say. We spent three hours talking in detail about bilateral relations, international issues and the situation in the region.
Today we will focus on bilateral relations and our work at international organisations that are of special interest to us. I am referring to the SCO, where you are working actively now.
However, I would like to begin this meeting by saying a few words about bilateral relations. I cited these figures yesterday. Our trade has decreased in terms of US dollars but it has increased if calculated in rubles and in terms of the physical volume, and it continued to grow in the first quarter of this year.
Agricultural imports from Uzbekistan have increased significantly, just as we agreed. I would like to thank you for your all-round support of this effort. Overall deliveries from Uzbekistan have grown by 10 percent, and by much more for certain individual commodities. The deliveries of some vegetables have increased tenfold. The import of grapes went up 20-fold and of citrus fruit — 54 times. This is a substantial increase for the Russian market. I believe that becoming established in such a large market as Russia is also of major importance for Uzbekistan’s agricultural producers.
We are working in other areas as well, including industry. We are giving special attention to cooperation in high-tech areas. In short, there are many issues we can discuss.
Once again, please accept my heartfelt greetings. We are happy to have you here. Welcome to Moscow.
President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov: Mr President, here in the presence of the media I would like to thank you again for inviting me to make an official visit to Russia, to Moscow. I am greatly satisfied, more than that, I am grateful to you for meeting me late last night to discuss so many issues.
I am satisfied with our conversation yesterday. Moreover, I believe it will bear fruit tomorrow, if not today. It is especially important that we spoke openly and honestly, mostly being very direct rather than using diplomatic language. I appreciate this kind of conversation when there is no need for diplomatic forms of speech and you can express your ideas precisely and in a few words.
Our conversation yesterday showed that we had not seen each other for a long time and had many things to discuss. I am grateful to you for saying that we had many issues to consider.
It is good that there are things to discuss, especially in view of all the developments in the world that call not only for an exchange of opinions but for determining each other’s positions. Uzbekistan and Central Asia in general feel that the ongoing developments in the world are directly linked to Central Asia. Everything we see every day on television or read online and in the press is directly connected to the events that take place in close proximity to our countries.
Afghanistan has always been a region of confrontation. I would even describe it as a smouldering war with no end in sight.
Regarding bilateral relations, I can only thank you for being so well informed about these figures and for taking this to heart, especially since we in Uzbekistan have done everything in our power when it was necessary, when you really needed it, to make up for the shortfall in certain supplies.
The manifold increase in deliveries, which you mentioned, clearly indicates more than just our ability. It is not easy to increase deliveries 10-fold or 20-fold in the course of just one year. But we have done this, which speaks volumes.
Of course, we could continue to discuss bilateral relations in terms of general turnover today, but I would rather focus on those commodities that you really need, because grapes, for instance, do not grow in Moscow or St Petersburg, not to mention some other commodities.
People in Moscow and St Petersburg seem to have forgotten that the best fruit and vegetables come from Uzbekistan. It is not uncommon to hear dealers from neighbouring countries advertise their produce at the market by claiming that they are from Uzbekistan, even though they may not be related in any way whatsoever to Uzbekistan. This is only advertising, but it is quite telling.
Moscow residents know this all too well, and I think that Uzbekistan is open to cooperation in these high-demand sectors. However, this is not just about fruit and vegetables. Uzbekistan should not be viewed as a supplier of such straightforward products.
It is true that trade has declined in dollar terms, but let me reiterate that we do not feel any sharp drop in the variety of goods that we trade with Russia.
Of course, in certain areas, take cars for example, what is happening in the world in general and in Russia has had an affect our bilateral relations. There are other issues as well.
Make no mistake, we have things to discuss in the follow-up to yesterday’s conversation, and we will exchange views in a restricted format on issues that were propelled to the agenda by the course of recent events.
First, I would like to raise the issue of regional security in Central Asia. It is now absolutely clear, as I have said on a number of occasions, that there is no end in sight to the war in Afghanistan and no light at the end of the tunnel.
With journalists and our friends present here today as my witnesses, I would like to say that obviously attempts are being made to resolve the Afghan issue without Russia. I believe this to be essentially wrong. I do not even want to elaborate on this.
Besides, everyone knows geography, and knows that Central Asia’s ties with Russia go back centuries, if not millennia. We clearly feel Russia’s interest in Central Asia, and we agree with this, moreover, we consider it relevant. If there are those who fail to grasp this, I think that they will get there at a certain point, just like with other realities across the world.
Certain realities need to be recognised. Otherwise, reality will eventually catch up with you. From this perspective, we have things to discuss regarding issues of common interest for Russia and Uzbekistan.
I would like to thank you once again for the attention the delegation of Uzbekistan has been receiving. I am happy to continue our conversation today.
Vladimir Putin: Thank you
Statements for the press following Russian-Uzbekistani talks
Vladimir Putin and Islam Karimov made statements for the press following their talks.
Vladimir Putin and Islam Karimov made statements for the press following their talks.
President of Russia Vladimir Putin: Mr President, ladies and gentlemen.
The official visit by the President of Uzbekistan is proceeding in a traditional atmosphere of friendship, neighbourliness and openness.
Yesterday, the President of Uzbekistan and I had an informal meeting, during which we exchanged opinions on the international agenda and the situation in the Asia Pacific Region.
Our talks today were constructive and informative. We discussed important issues of bilateral cooperation and outlined specific plans for our political, trade, economic, cultural and humanitarian relations.
We talked in detail about Uzbekistan’s presidency at the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation. I would like to remind you that Russia held the rotating SCO presidency last year. In this context, we welcome Uzbekistan’s resolve to maintain continuity in SCO activities. We appreciate the efforts of our Uzbek partners to implement the Ufa agreements, and we support the new initiatives that are slated for discussion at the Tashkent summit in June, including the fight against drug trafficking, extremism and transnational organised crime.
As I have said, Uzbekistan is Russia’s strategic partner and reliable ally. Our cooperation is aimed at strengthening these relations of friendship and mutual support.
Mr President and I also spoke about a tragedy that goes back several decades: the terrible earthquake that hit Tashkent 50 years ago. The entire Soviet Union helped rebuild the city then.
We appreciate the level of bilateral economic ties. Russia is Uzbekistan’s second largest trading partner. It accounts for over 17 percent of Uzbekistan’s foreign trade.
At the same time, we are aware of current problems, which are connected primarily to exchange rates. We have taken note of a certain decline in mutual trade in this connection, but we have to say that the physical volumes of mutual trade have not decreased and have even grown by 7.9 percent in the first quarter of this year.
We are successfully implementing an action programme to boost economic cooperation in 2015–2019. As a result, the share of industrial and high-tech products in our mutual trade has increased to 30 percent. The deliveries of agricultural products from Uzbekistan to Russia have grown.
Our investment cooperation is on the rise. Over the past few years, Russian investments in Uzbekistan’s economy have exceeded $6 billion. Last year alone, the inflow of Russian investment to Uzbekistan reached $1.2 billion or 40 percent more than in 2014.
The enforcement of the 2014 agreement on the settlement of mutual financial claims and obligations provides additional opportunities for the implementation of new projects and enhancing credit and financial cooperation.
Energy remains in the focus of our cooperation. Leading Russian companies are successfully operating in Uzbekistan. Thus, LUKOIL and its Uzbek partners are developing a group of gas condensate fields in Bukhara Region and have invested $3.6 billion in these projects. Total investment has been planned at $12 billion.
The construction of a gas transmission facility, one of the largest in Central Asia, was launched in April. Its annual design capacity will be 8 billion cubic metres, and it will cost more than $3 billion. The implementation of this large project will create thousands of new jobs in Uzbekistan and attract substantial financial and tax revenues to its budget.
Other Russian companies have increased their activities in Uzbekistan, for example Gazprom. It plans to develop the promising Jel gas field.
To be continued.