Uzbek and foreign journalists were briefed about the main achievements in bilateral cooperation and successful projects of the British Embassy in the political, economic, educational and cultural spheres during 2014.
The UK welcomes the openness that characterizes its dialogue and interaction with the government of Uzbekistan on issues of shared concern including political matters such as regional security, said Her Majesty’s Ambassador. The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Abdulaziz Kamilov, headed an Uzbek delegation to attend the NATO Summit in Wales at the beginning of September. Close cooperation and assistance to the Afghan government to ensure security in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of ISAF were one of the key themes of the summit. During the summit, Minister Kamilov held a meeting with Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond. The Ministers discussed opportunities for further development of bilateral cooperation.
The exchange of views at senior levels promotes a better mutual understanding on bilateral, regional and international issues and has become more frequent. The Senior Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, paid two visits to Tashkent in the last two years. In April 2014, Baroness Warsi met with senior government officials in the Cabinet of Ministers, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Defence, Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade, as well as in the Senate of the Oliy Majlis and the National Centre for Human Rights. The parties discussed in depth the prospects for cooperation in political, trade, economic, scientific and educational spheres and in the field of human rights.
Ambassador Edgar mentioned recent official visits and a British Council sponsored visit to the UK by the Minister of Higher and Secondary Special Education of Uzbekistan Mr. Alisher Vakhabov on 19-22 January 2015. Mr. Vakhabov participated in the World Education Forum in London along with ministers of education from 80 countries. During the visit, Minister Vakhabov met the Director of the UK Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, top management of British universities, experts in the field of education and learning English, and the leadership of the British Council. Opportunities for further bilateral cooperation in the field of education were discussed during the meetings.
Her Majesty’s Ambassador Edgar also touched on the first visit by a senior representative of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office to Uzbekistan in 2015. Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Sir Richard Stagg, visited Tashkent on 22 January and met the First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Alisher Kurmanov. Their discussed focused on the situation in Afghanistan and the efforts of the international community to support the Afghan government in providing effective security and economic development. Ambassador Stagg met experts from the Institute of Strategic and Regional Studies under the President of Uzbekistan and the Center for Regional Security Studies and also delivered a lecture to students and faculty at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, where he briefed the audience about military, technical and economic assistance to Afghanistan.
Ambassador George Edgar told reporters about his regional trips in Uzbekistan in 2014. The Ambassador visited Surkhandarya region in Feburary 2014, where he met local authorities, representatives of the regional branch of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry, as well as faculty and students at Termez State University. He also visited the border and customs post on the Uzbek-Afghan border, where he heard about the work of border and customs services.
In May 2014, Her Majesty’s Ambassador Edgar visited the Ustyurt Gas Chemical Complex in Karakalpakstan, a modern venture that will become the largest producer of polyethylene and polypropylene in Central Asia after it is commissioned in 2016. Several British companies have provided consulting services on legal, financial and environmental issues during the implementation of the project.
The Ambassador shared several examples of cooperation between the defence ministries of the two countries. In September and November 2014, there were several visits by delegations of the Ministry of Defence of Uzbekistan to the United Kingdom, where Uzbek military officials were introduced to British expertise in officer training, usage of engineering troop units and experience of chemical, biological and radiological protection.
In the autumn of 2014, a representative of the UK National Crime Agency of the UK joined the Embassy. He is tasked with developing cooperation with law enforcement bodies of Uzbekistan to jointly combat transnational crime. Negotiations with the Government of Uzbekistan are in progress to sign a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Uzbekistan and the National Crime Agency. The Memorandum will be the basis for the development of cooperation in prevention, investigation and prosecution of persons involved in drug trafficking, arms trafficking, cyber and financial crimes, including money laundering.
The Ambassador noted that according to the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade of Uzbekistan, the UK is one of the most important trade partners of Uzbekistan in Europe. According to MFERIT figures, the trade turnover between the two countries in January-October 2014 amounted to over $100 million. In January-September 2014 it increased by 14% compared to the same period in 2013.
According to Uzbek sources, there are 504 firms and companies with British capital in various sectors of the economy, including 142 with 100% capital of British investors. 78 offices of British companies are accredited with MFERIT. New British companies have entered the Uzbek market. For example, in August 2014, Her Majesty’s Ambassador Edgar took part in the opening ceremony of a large retail store British Home Stores at the shopping center Samarkand Darvoza in Tashkent which sells high-quality clothing and accessories.
In November 2014, the 21st session of the Uzbek-British Council on Trade and Industry was held in Tashkent, attended by more than 20 British companies. Participants discussed cooperation in various trade and economic spheres, and exchanged views on promising joint projects in the fields of education, science, tourism, waste management, and energy-saving technologies.
In recent years, the Embassy has been actively developing cooperation with several leading educational institutions of the country. With the support of the Embassy, British professors from leading British universities have been delivering lectures at the Banking and Finance Academy and the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Uzbekistan for several years. In 2014, the lectures covered issues in international financial markets, foreign investment and public service.
The Embassy continues to work with Uzbek institutions on issues relating to human rights, in particular with the National Centre for Human Rights, in support of their work to strengthen the rule of law, including through the funding of visits by a British specialist in human rights law to share the UK’s experience in some important areas. British experts played a central role in the EU-funded Criminal Justice Reform Project. And British observers, with the OSCE’s monitoring mission and independently, were among those who observed December’s parliamentary elections. The Ambassador stressed his hope that the UK experience in this field – positive and negative – can be useful to Uzbekistan.
The Ambassador also referred to the work of the British Council in Uzbekistan, whose projects are aimed at supporting reforms in the national educational system of Uzbekistan. Within its project to reform the system of training teachers of English, the British Council assisted with the establishment of contacts between 18 pedagogical universities of Uzbekistan and partner organizations in the UK in 2014. The project is designed to develop a positive impact on the process of teaching and learning English in Uzbekistan with 34,000 teachers and 6.5 million students onboard.
The UK remains one of the most popular destinations for Uzbek tourists, students and business people. In 2013, residents of Uzbekistan were issued more than 3000 different types of visas. During the first 9 months of 2014 more than 2,200 visas were issued, including 523 tourist, 369 student, and 61 work visas - statistics for the last 3 months of 2014 will be available in February this year.
After his speech Her Britannic Majesty’s Ambassador took questions from journalists.