Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations have characteristics of a strategic partnership, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to Azerbaijan, Bakhrom Ashrafkhanov told Trend in an interview.
"Undoubtedly, the basis of such a high level of relations is a close and trusting dialogue between the leaders of our countries. It is gratifying that recently both sides have witnessed the growth of bilateral relations in all directions, including trade and economic sphere," stressed Ashrafkhanov.
As an example, in 2019 trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan increased by 55.7 percent to $73.4 million.
"No less important is the fact that despite the current crisis phenomena in the global economy caused by the coronavirus pandemic, trade and economic relations between our countries continue to demonstrate positive growth dynamics," he stated.
In the first half of 2020, bilateral trade between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan increased by 77.7 percent, compared to the same period in 2019, to $47.5 million.
Ambassador Ashrafkhanov stressed that these figures do not reflect the full potential of bilateral relations between Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan.
He also emphasized that both sides are making purposeful efforts to further increase mutual trade turnover.
"For example, during the period from June 9 through June 12, 2020, sides held the Made in Uzbekistan Online business forum, with the participation of representatives of official and business circles of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan," Ashrafkhanov said.
During this event, representatives of Azerbaijan were able to get acquainted with a wide range of Uzbek products in various directions, including agricultural, textile, electrical, automotive, and mining industries.
"The results of the business forum exceeded our expectations. Thus, more than 50 Uzbek producers of export-oriented products established contacts with representatives of more than 100 Azerbaijani companies," said the ambassador.
In this regard, the sides initiated a highly specialized 'Made in Uzbekistan' Textile online business forum in the period from August 25 through August 27, 2020.
Ashrafkhanov said the program of this event envisages intensive B2B meetings.
"In particular, 30 Uzbek producers of export-oriented textile products will have a unique opportunity to establish contacts with buyers, distributors, specialists of sewing enterprises, ateliers, representatives of retail chains, as well as potential investors from Azerbaijan," noted Bakhrom Ashrafkhanov.
"I am confident that this forum will be a milestone event in strengthening and further developing Uzbek-Azerbaijani relations" stated the ambassador.
He also stressed that transportation routes from Central Asia through the Caspian Sea and further through the Caucasus are becoming especially
"In this regard, the widespread use of the Trans-Caucasus Transport Corridor for the transportation of increasing volumes of export-import cargo is in the interests of our states. We also believe that the transport corridor Baku-Tbilisi-Kars, as well as the commissioning of the Baku International Port, establishes new routes to international markets. In this context, we are grateful that the Azerbaijani side is making an effort to form transport corridors and necessary infrastructure," stressed Ashrafkhanov.
Ashrafkhanov noted that at present, the Uzbek side is carefully analyzing the possibilities of increasing its cargo flow through these corridors and an active negotiation process between the involved structures of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan is underway.
"Recently we have been promoting interregional cooperation, taking into account its important role in bringing our brotherly countries and people together. In this context, we are satisfied with the announcement of Rishtan and Ismayilli as sister cities in 2018. Last year's visit of the delegation of the Bukhara region to Lankaran city, as well as to Lerik, Astara and Masalli districts of Azerbaijan was a continuation of our activities in this direction," said the ambassador.
He also added that sides will start working on further expansion of interregional cooperation soon.
According to the ambassador, the Uzbek side is pleased that Azerbaijani entrepreneurs have shown great interest in Uzbekistan, given the large-scale transformations taking place in the country.
"As you know, under the leadership of President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, special attention is paid to the creation of a favorable business environment for foreign investors interested in realization of their projects in our country. At the present stage in Uzbekistan has one of the most favorable conditions for investments and starting a business," stated Ashrafkhanov.
He also added that these conditions are not just the result of economic liberalization but also sign of professionalism and perseverance of Uzbek people
As he said, currently seven projects worth about $80 million are being implemented in Andijan, Bukhara, Kashkadarya, Syrdarya, and Fergana regions of Uzbekistan, as well as in Tashkent city in cooperation with Azerbaijani Embassy.
At the same time, several other investment projects are under consideration, which covers sectors such as construction, agriculture, energy, IT, food, and others.
"In turn, I would like to note that the Uzbek side does not ignore the large-scale transformations taking place in brotherly Azerbaijan. To date, Uzbek companies have shown interest in different spheres of Azerbaijani economy such as car manufacturing, agriculture, IT, textiles industry, electrical engineering, and others," said ambassador Ashrafkhanov.
According to him some 195 enterprises with participation of Azerbaijani capital are operating in Uzbekistan, 69 of them are joint ventures and the rest of them are operating with 100 percent of Azerbaijani capital.
Moreover, as he said, some 19 new enterprises with participation of the Azerbaijani capital were created in Uzbekistan in the first half of 2020.
"Their main spheres of activity are trade, mechanical engineering and metal processing, finance, and insurance, real estate operations, energy, services, production and repair of jewelry, food industry, light industry. I will also note that we have not only manufacturing companies, but also high-tech companies engaged in artificial intelligence, informatization, e-government, etc.," said ambassador Ashrafkhanov.
"Taking into account the intensification of trade-economic and investment cooperation between Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan, we hope that the number of joint ventures will continue to increase," stated the ambassador.
Ashrafkhanov also noted that the development of cooperation in tourism is no less a priority in the Uzbek agenda.
Uzbekistan has 7,300 cultural heritage sites in the country, which makes over 90 percent of all historical monuments in the region. More than 500 of them are included in tourist routes. Among the main pearls are monuments in Bukhara, Samarkand, Khiva, and Shahrisabz.
"Over the past four years, at the initiative of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan has been implementing large-scale reforms in all spheres of life, including tourism, which has been identified as a priority and strategic sector of the economy. As part of this activity, active measures are being taken to improve the tourism potential, including the promotion of pilgrimage tourism, as well as provide many benefits and incentives for market participants," said ambassador Ashrafkhanov.
He noted the increased dynamics of tourist flow from Azerbaijan as well, and according to him, it increases annually by almost 20 percent.
"It is pleasant to note that contacts between administrations of tourism of Uzbekistan and Azerbaijan have recently become more frequent, within the framework of which the agreement on promotion of mutually beneficial cooperation in this direction was reached. Important in this context is the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in July 2019 in Baku on education and science between the Silk Road International University of Tourism and the Azerbaijan University of Tourism and Management," said the Ambassador.
On August 25, 2020, the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Azerbaijan held an event to mark the 22nd anniversary of Uzbek diplomatic mission in Baku. The event was attended by diplomats of the Embassy (including Ambassador Ashrafkhanov himself), employees of representative offices of Uzbekistan Airways JSC, and UzAuto Motors JSC in Azerbaijan, citizens of Uzbekistan living in Baku, as well as representatives of local media.
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