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Uzbekistan

Geography

Photo: dalniestrany
Map of Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan is located in the central part of Central Asia. Historically, the state is known to originate from around VIII B.C. when the Horezma and Baktria were created. Later it became part of the Turkic khanate and the Sassanid Empire, and also experienced the influence of the Arab caliphate and Persia. From the second half of IX century, the structures of state administration were created, and science developed. While from the XIV and XVII centuries Timurids and Shaybanids led the development of science, culture and poetry – Timur's grandson Ulugbek was an outstanding astronomer and astrologer, and also working in the country were prominent artists, architects and writers. During this time, the territory of the country was expanded. Meanwhile the Turkic conquered the territories of North India and Afghanistan, creating the Mogul Empire that existed until the XIX century.
During the second half of the XIX century when the Russian empire began to expand in Central Asia, this was the period of the Emirate of Bukhara, Kokand and Khiva Khanists in the territory of Uzbekistan. All three state formations resisted the Great, but in 1924 the Uzbek SSR was merged with the capital city of Samarkand (in 1930 it was moved to Tashkent). Soon a decision was taken on the change of Uzbek writing to the Cyrillic alphabet (before the Persian alphabet was used). The Latin alphabet was introduced in 1993, but both Cyrillic alphabet and Latin alphabet are currently being used.
Uzbekistan's independence was proclaimed in 1991, but since the XX century’s (1980s) the leader of republic was Islam Karimov (later died on 2 September 2016). In the West, his leadership style was regarded as authoritarian, and while sometimes his style was condemned, he had the support of power structures in the republic, and was also praised by local media. The Republic has the largest defence budget in the region - 5% of GDP which was needed to maintain control of the country.
During the period when it was within the USSR, Uzbekistan was developing primarily cotton and cereal cultivation, which led to soil agglutination and severely reduced water resources. Currently, the country's efforts are focused on reducing the dependency on agriculture through the exploitation of minerals and oil resources, and by expanding industry. According to population statistics, Uzbekistan is the largest country in Central Asia, and is still competing with Kazakhstan, partly with Turkmenistan, for the leadership in the region.
Uzbekistan's total area is 447 400 km2 (about 7 times larger than the territory of Latvia). The total length of the state border is 6221 km, incl. with Kazakhstan - 2203 km, Kyrgyzstan - 1099 km, Tajikistan - 1161 km, Turkmenistan - 1621 km, Afghanistan - 137 km.
The highest point of the country is Mount Adelunga (4,301 m above sea level), and the lowest is Lake Sarykamish (12 m below sea level). In the north of the country, the fourth largest lake in the world is Aral Sea (40 m above sea level), while along the southern border of the country is the largest Uzbek river - Amu Darya.
The central part of the country contains the Kyzyl Kum Desert, while in the north and south-eastern part of Uzbekistan, large mountain ranges. Uzbekistan is located in the interior of the continent and the republic does not have direct access to the sea.
About a third of the republic's territory consists of mountains and hills. The mountains in the eastern part of the country are Tianjin and include the foothills of the Himalayan mountain range. The valley of the Fergana, located on the territory of Uzbekistan between these two ridges, is the region with the most fertile soil and the best climatic conditions for agriculture throughout the Western part of Asia. The western part of Uzbekistan is mainly in the lowlands (Turan Lowland), the Amu Darya Valley, the Ustyurt Plateau and the Southern half of the Aral Sea.
Uzbekistan is located in a dry climatic zone, so the lack of water is topical. For this reason, water resources in Uzbekistan are mainly derived from underground fresh water reservoirs, which supports in large quantities soil irrigation and livestock production.
The largest part of the country's territory is a desert and steppe with fertile oases along the two largest rivers - the banks of the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. Uzbekistan has dry winters and a maximum rainfall of 200 mm per year. The summer period is from May to October, the summer is hot and dry, so well-irrigated soils can create good conditions for cotton, tobacco, fruit and vegetable growing.

Population

Uzbekistan has 32.5 million inhabitants (data from 2017). In terms of demographic age groups, the largest group is composed of people aged 15-65 (66%), children up to 14 years old (29%), while those over the age of 65 represent 5% of the population. The birth rate is 17 newborns per 1000 population (high birth-infant mortality - 20 per 1,000 newborns), while overall mortality is 6 deaths per 1000 population. The average life expectancy is 71.6 years (68.6 for males and 74.8 years for men).
Most of the population inhabit the southern and eastern parts of the country, 49.4% in rural areas and 50.6% in urban areas.
Uzbekistan is an ethnically homogeneous country. 82% of the population is Uzbek, the other major ethnic groups are Tajiks - 4.8% and Russians - 2.6%. In cities there is a greater number of people of other nationalities (not Uzbek). Until the proclamation of independence in 1991, administrative posts were mainly inhabitants of Slavic origin, but later they were deliberately squeezed out of positions; encouraging them to leave the country.
Most of the Uzbek people are Muslims (Sunnis), next there is quite a large community of Orthodox Christians, and representatives of other denominations (Judaism, Buddhists, etc.) are also present. Uzbekistan is a secular nation, its constitution provides freedom of choice for religion and the separation of church from the state. However, the government provides significant support to Islamic culture by providing funding to both the University of Islam and supporting citizens' participation in the pilgrimage to Mecca. For the purpose of safeguarding national security, measures are being taken against religious extremists and it is also prohibited to use speakers for inviting Muslims to daily prayers.

Territorial administrative division

Territorial administrative division

Uzbekistan is divided into 12 regions (viloyats), the Autonomous Republic of Karakalpakstan and one autonomous city (Tashkent, the capital city).

Nr. in map

District

Administrative centre

Teritory, km²

Number of ihabitants, mlj

1

Tashkent

 

300

2,4

2

Andijan

Andijan

4 200

2,8

3

Bukhara

Bukhara

39 400

1,8

4

Fergana

Fergana

6 800

3,4

5

Jizzakh

Jizzakh

20 500

1,3

6

Namangan

Namangan

7 900

2,5

7

Navoiy

Navoiy

110 800

0,9

8

qashqadaryo

Qarshi

28 400

2,9

9

Samarqand

Samarkand

16 400

3,5

10

Sirdaryo

Guliston

5100

0,7

11

Surxondaryo

Termez

20 800

2,3

12

Tashkent

Tashkent

15 300

2,7

13

Horezmas

Urgenča

6 300

1,7

14

Karakalpakstan autonomous republic

Nukus

165 600

1,8

Economy

Uzbekistan's economy is one of the fastest growing in Central Asia, partly due to the significant amount of mineral resources, as well as efforts to expand cooperation with foreign countries and to attract investment.
Although the introduction of a market economy is being declared, Uzbekistan continues to exercise rigorous control over its business, and there is a high level of corruption in the country, which often offends foreign investors. Official statistics of Uzbekistan often do not coincide with the statements of officials about the development of the country, but informal information differs considerably from one official to another, so it is difficult to obtain objective information about the republic's economy.
In recent years, the structure of the division of GDP has changed, with the highest income previously coming from the agricultural sector (38%), services (35.7%) and industry (26.3%), but now - from services (37.4%), (33.1%) and agriculture (29.4%, data from 2014). The largest number of employees is in agriculture – 44%, while in services and industry 36% and 20% of the population respectively.
Uzbekistan maintains a high level of military expenses (averagely 5% of GDP), which is determined by the need to provide support for the regime and preventing internal turmoil and instability as well as the recently growing external threats (terrorism, and trafficking from Afghanistan).
Major export partners from Uzbekistan are Russia, Turkey and China. In turn, the major import partners are Russia, South Korea, China, Germany, Kazakhstan and Turkey.
Cotton growing and its export take the most important places in Uzbekistan's economy. Uzbekistan is the world’s second-largest cotton exporter and fifth-largest cotton producer. Other export industries are gold, oil and natural gas supplies.
Uzbekistan has a lot of minerals and mineral resources. Uzbekistan is one of the world's resource nations in terms of internal minerals such as silver, gold, copper, lead, zinc, tungsten, natural gas, etc. Experts have estimated that more than 750 different mineral resources can be found in Uzbekistan, with a total value of 3 billion USD.
Uzbekistan is the seventh largest owner of uranium reserves in the world and the fifth largest extractor. There are currently about 40 uranium reserves in the country, with reserves estimated at 185800 tonnes. There is no nuclear industry in the Republic, so all extracted uranium is exported. The export monopoly operator is Navoi, a company that performs uranium mining and primary processing.
Uzbekistan has the 2nd place in the CIS after Russia in gold mining. The main gold mining centre is located in Muruntau, where in 1972 a golden city-Zarafshan was established. Certain gold mines are also located in the regions of Tashkent, Jizzakh, Navoi and Namangan.
Uzbekistan has significant natural gas reserves (estimated by experts to be 66.2 trillion cubic meters). There are 12 large natural gas storage facilities in the country, mainly in the Kashkadarya and Bukhara areas. The country has 171 fields of oil and natural gas, of which at least 60% is in the Bukhara region, which has at least 70% of Uzbek oil. The second largest is the Ferghana region, which has 20% of its oil resources.
Significant also are its coal deposits (estimated at 5 billion tons). At the current pace of extraction, this resource would suffice for 300 years.
At the beginning of 2016, speaking in parliament, President of the Republic Shavkat Mirziyoyev defined six principles for the development of a country's economy. First it was necessary to ensure macroeconomic stability and to maintain the high pace of economic development achieved in recent years. To achieve this, additional measures needed to be taken to strengthen the stability of the national currency and the banking system, to balance the state budget in the republic and region level, and to continue using a conservative and rational approach to foreign companies, avoiding an excessive debt burden.
Sh.Mirziyoyev pointed out that due to conditions of increased competition and instability observable in world markets, the expansion of competitive production and increasing potential of exports were of particular importance. Sh.Mirziyoyev, emphasizing that the protection of the interests of private business and the employment of the citizens is one of the most important priorities. 
The sixth priority is the development of integrated transport infrastructure, national information and communication systems in modern and international systems.
In the framework of his pre-election campaign, in order to get acquainted with the process of socio-economic reforms, S. Mirziyoyev has visited the regions of the republic, incl. Angren (Tashkent region), where a special industrial zone "Angren" has been created. “Angren” has implemented 11 major investment projects, and plans to put in operation 7 more units. Shortly after Sh.Mirziyoyev, the head of the joint-stock company "Uzbekenergo" (consisting of 53 companies), Iskandar Basidov resigned due to health problems. Several “Uzbekenergo” companies did not pay salaries to their employees for almost six months, explaining that it was due to the debts resulting from the timely payment of the population for the supplied electricity.
According to observers, the republic has suffered a prolonged economic crisis: prices for the main export goods (hydrocarbons and rare earth metals) have fallen, and the external demand for machine building products has decreased, as well as the amount of remittances from Uzbek guest workers. Sh.Mirziyoyev acknowledged that the country needs reforms and one of the priorities is to maintain the pace of economic growth. At the beginning of October, when visiting Samarkand, he proposed to create a free economic zone in the Urgut district, where there are already 40 industrial enterprises (including 19 joint enterprises) in the territory of 42 hectares and about 1200 employees are working. According to his instructions, from January 1, 2017, all non-scheduled inspections of entrepreneurs were cancelled.
The status of the Free Economic Zone allows the introduction of reliefs in customs, rent, labour and other regulations to promote industrial development and the inflow of foreign capital. Currently, there are three free economic zones in the republic established in 2008 in the Navoiy area (north of the country), in 2012 in the Tashkent region and in 2013 in Sidarya (north eastern state). 
Traditionally, Uzbekistan extensively cooperates with Russia – some 900 joint ventures operate in the country, while Russian investments exceed 6 billion USD (data from the end of 2015). The climate in Uzbekistan remains rather difficult for investors, but over the past two years, the republic has reduced its tax burden and simplified business checks, which allows Tashkent to expand its cooperation. Cooperation is mainly in the mining sector, but there are some projects in other areas, but they are not long-term. In 2012, the “Silovije Mashini” company modernized the Charvak Hydroelectric Power Plant (total financing of 56.5 million USD), “Zapadno-Uralskij Mashinostroitelnij concern” group of companies implements several projects in the chemical and mining sectors (180 million USD). Russia could engage in oil, chemical, electrical, mechanical engineering and pharmaceutical projects. Discussions are held on the creation of a "green corridor" for the supply of goods - i.e., an agreement on the facilitation of customs and sanitary design of food cargoes from Uzbekistan. In 2016, the volume of agricultural production from Uzbekistan has doubled.
Uzbekistan does not limit its cooperation with one or some of the great powers. In recent years, China's economic presence in Uzbekistan has considerably increased, incl. Beijing invested in the high-speed rail development program. Russia is the second largest cooperative partner (formerly was the largest) and Kazakhstan the third. Successful trade with Uzbekistan has also been established with Turkey, Japan and South Korea.
Several free economic zones are being created in Uzbekistan. In 2008, the Navoyi area “Navoji” (north of the country), “Angren” in the area of Tashkent in 2012 and the first free economic zones in the Sirdaryo district of “Jizzakh” (north eastern state) in 2013, allowing for the introduction of customs, rent, labour and other regulations to promote industrial development and the inflow of foreign capital. In 2017, the decision was made to create another four free economic zones: the southern parts of the Samarqand, Bukhara and Horezmas regions (“Urgut”, “G’ijduvon” and “Hozarasp” respectively) and the country of the East in the Fergana region (“Kokand”). These zones will function for 30 years (the term will be possible to extend) and will have favourable terms for investments, including investments from 300 000 USD to 3 million USD for three years, from 3 to 5 million USD - for five years, from 5 to 10 million USD - seven years and more than 10 million USD will provide their subjects 10 years of tax relief (the latter will also benefit from a further five years' relief  of 50% income tax).
In Tashkent, it is planned to create a technical innovation park "Jashnabad", the aim of which is to provide conditions for the development of high technology and entrepreneurship (including innovative small businesses), as well as for organizing production of competitive products. It is expected that the new technology park will develop innovative products in the fields of biotechnology, chemistry, materials science and other fields.
In 2017 was established the Investment Committee, whose territorial offices located in Karakalpakstan (autonomy in the west) and Tashkent. The task of the Committee is to coordinate a common investment policy and attract foreign investment. Some of the functions of the Ministry of Foreign Economic Relations, Investment and Trade and stock-company “Uzbekekspertiza” (including the representation of foreign companies and organizations) will be transferred to the Committee.  This includes the import expert examination function (related to price parameters for equipment, technologies, and parts that are purchased in the framework of investment projects amounting to more than 100 000 USD) and registration of contracts concluded as a result of tenders.
The country has great plans for economic development, but there is currently a cash deficit in Uzbekistan. Although in February 2017 Sh.Mirziyoyev ordered to pay all kinds of pensions in cash in full amount, it became known in the summer that financial institutions had received orders from the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank to decline the payments of pensions, salaries and scholarships in cash. Possibly there is a lack of cash in the Uzbek Treasury, as over 251 million USD has already been spent in recent months (during the I.Karimov's presidency, the national reserve funds have never been used).
The Uzbekistan’s most ambitious project for the Uzbek economy is the construction of a nuclear power plant, because the presently existing energy deficit is hampering the country's plans for modernization and industrialization. It is possible to reconstruct existing thermal power plants, but in the long run their capacity will not satisfy the growing demand for electric energy and the costs of modernization are high. Uzbekistan has significant uranium reserves, and the construction of the nuclear power plant will not only meet the demand for electric energy, but will also generate additional budget economy which is now spent for  about 3.5 billion cubic meters of natural gas imports per year, which will become "redundant". It is planned that the future nuclear power plant, which will be the first in Central Asia and in cooperation with Russia, will generate about 15% of electric energy in the country by 2030. The construction of the nuclear power plant will also ensure long-term economic and political cooperation between Uzbekistan and Russia. Unlike the oil and natural gas industry, this cooperation is highly technological and envisages both the supply of technology and materials and training of personnel. As a result, Uzbekistan will make a technological breakthrough, and along with Kazakhstan will become one of the most advanced countries in the region. In turn, Russia, which has the necessary experience, technologies and specialists, will have the opportunity to expand exports of high-tech products, as well as to strengthen relations with Uzbekistan and increase Moscow's role in the region. 
 

Persons

Photo: uzreport
Shavkat Mirziyoyev

​Following the death of the first prezident Islam Karimov in August 2016, in accordance with the constitution, the President of the Upper House of Parliament, Nigmatil Juldashev (September 2 - September 8, 2016), was assigned the presidential duties. However, he stated that he lacked experience in public administration and suggested that the then Prime Minister, Shavkat Mirzijoyev, be appointed.
Sh.Mirzijoyev (born 1957 in Jizaka district, unofficially in Tajikistan) graduated from the Tashkent Institute of Agricultural Irrigation and Mechanization in 1981, worked for the Komsomol, was head and vice-rector of the Higher School Party. Until 1996, he was district manager of Tashkent, from 1996 to 2001 governor of Jizak district and until 2003 governor of Samarkand district. In September 2003 he was appointed Prime Minister.
He elected President on December 4, gaining 88% support of the electorate. While still substituting the rezident Sh.Myrzijoyev made several visits to the regions of the republic and created an official website where people can post their questions or proposals.

Photo: globalsecurity
Rustam Inoyatov

R.Inoyatov (born in 1944) graduated from the Faculty of Oriental Studies of Tashkent State University, specializing in Eastern history and literature, and speaks Farsi and English. During the compulsory military service, the USSR Army was involved in the First Main Directorate of the KGB, where he worked in several positions. From 1976 to 1981, he was a resident student in Afghanistan under diplomatic cover. In 1996 R. Inoyatov was awarded of the rank of Lieutenant-General.
Rustam Inoyatov is by far the longest serving Uzbek top official. He has been leading SNB, the most powerful institution in Uzbekistan, for over twenty years. According to unofficial data, the level of professionalism of the service is very high - partly preserved in the Soviet Union, and since 1996 no reforms have been made. The number of the service is several times higher than that of the former Soviet Union (more employees are only in internal affairs structures) and has doubled the status of operational staff.
R.Inoyatov's dispute with S. Mirziyoyev  began in February 2011, when he sent Karimov a letter in which he "exposed" S. Mirziyoyev , indicating that his agrarian policy could lead to a food shortage by promoting social dissatisfaction, which is dangerous and the consequences of which are unpredictable. R.Inoyatov tried to use I.Karimov's fear of a possible "colorful revolution", creating false perception of Sh.Mirziyoyev  as its initiator, who could provoke it through his actions.
The disagreements are indirectly observed since now – Sh. Mirziyoyev is a president of the state. R.Inoyatov spoke negatively about the planned economic reforms, as well as the cancellation of visas with 15 countries, about what the president was speaking at the end of 2016. Possibly, under the influence of R.Inoyatov, the presidential decision on the abolition of  visa regime with several countries was changed (initially Sh.Mirziyoyev  supported it, but later cancelled it). S. Mirziyoyev has shown progress towards changes in several areas, including relations with neighboring countries. According to his order, the air traffic with Tajikistan has been formally restored (there were some technical problems that prevented the air traffic from working), but the rapprochement with Dushanbe provides the greatest dissatisfaction with the security structures controlled by R. Inoyatov.

Photo: Fergananews.com
Ikhtiyor Abdulayev

R.Inojatov was the head of the NDD from 1995 to February 2018, when visiting service headquarters in Tashkent, Sh.Myrzijoyev strosharply criticized R.Inojatov’s activities and dismissed him from office. Ihtiyor Abdulayev (formerly Attorney General) was appointed as the new leader. Shortly before his dismissal from office, news reports published in the media about large deals abroad by members of Mr Inojatov's family were., in 2019, Abdulayev was prosecuted for corruption and sentenced to 19 years' imprisonment.
Shortly after R. Inojatovs' dismissal, the National Security Service was renamed as the National Security Service and its functions were reduced. In addition, many security guards were prosecuted for exceeding their office. At the same time, the President's Security Service was established, which is responsible not only for the protection of the Head of State, but also for a number of other functions, including the enlisting of suspicious persons who could draft crimes against the interests and security of the Head of State and the changes in the law actually equalized the role of the National Security Service and the Presidential Security Service. The National Guard, on the other hand, could be seen as a structure of the Presidential Security Service, as the commander of both is Colonel-General Bahodir Tashmatov. In addition, changes to the By-Laws for gatherings Mass included in the summer of 2019 envisage the National Guard to cooperate with the National Security Service (formerly under the responsibility of security guards), and the National Guard's mandate was expanded in the fall. It units of the patrol and defense service as well as subunits of chief public order units.
It should also be noted that the first deputy commander of the National Guard is Major General Botir Tursunov (his son Oibek Tursunov is married to the president's eldest daughter, Saida), who has worked for long periods in special services and Interior Ministry structures, including the Interpol office in Uzbekistan. According to unofficial information, the Major-General is de facto commander of the National Guard and determines the most important decisions. The Vice-President of the Presidential Security Service, on the other hand, is Otabek Shahanov (the husband of Shahnoza, the younger daughter of the President).
Although the principles of freedom of the speech and principles ofopenness have been emphasized in the country since the death of I.Karimov, in reality the situation has not changed and opposition still does not exist.
 

Domestic policy

After the death of Islam Karimov, according to the constitution, the duties of the President were entrusted to the head of the upper house of parliament, Nigmatulla Yuldashev (2 September 2016 - 8 September 2016). However, he stated that he lacked experience in public administration and proposed the appointment of Prime Minister to Shavkat Mirziyoyev.
S. Mirziyoyev (born in 1957 in the Jizzakh region, according to unofficial data in Tajikistan) graduated from the Tashkent Institute of Engineers of Irrigation and Mechanization of Agriculture in 1981, worked for the organization of the Young Communist Youth, and was the head and Vice Rector of the organization for the tructuring of higher education. He was the Head of the Tashkent District until 1996, from 1996 to 2001 the Head of the Jizzakh Region, and until 2003 the Governor of the Samarqand region. In September 2003, he was appointed Prime Minister. From September 8, 2016, he was the presiding officer, but on December 4 he was appointed Prime Minister.
During his time as President, Sh.Mirziyoyev has made several visits to the republic's regions. He has an official website, where citizens have the opportunity to post their questions or suggestions. Thus, the president can be reached by telephone, electronically or through the Liberal Democratic Party of Uzbekistan districts.

Photo: 112international
Islam Karimov

In the interest of ensuring national stability, the first president Islam Karimov (from 01.30.1938 to 09.22.2016) was of particular importance; he had strong support from the power structures and the media, which formed the public opinion praising the success of the leader. Experts believe that the revenues from state exports were controlled by the president and it provided funds for maintaining a large repressive apparatus that allowed to preserve the power (Karimov was a national leader since 1989, the first secretary of the Central Committee of the Uzbek PSR Communist Party). I.Karimov won four presidential elections (in 1991, 2000, 2007 and 2015) and twice his mandate was extended by referendums (in 1995 and 2002 - then there was a change of presidency term). International organizations accused I. Karimov of establishing a dictatorship, oppression, corruption and human right abuses, especially after the events in Andijan in 2005, when 187 people were killed in the rescue operation, several hundred became refugees, and 121 detainees were sentenced to 14 to 20 years of deprivation of liberty.
Taking into account the age of I. Karimov, reports of his health problems were repeated several times during the last decade, but they have never been officially approved (Karimov's stroke and death were announced in a few days post factum in September 2016). According to Ikram Jakubov, a representative of the National Security Service (NSS), in 2002 a special subunit was set up at the NSS: it’s task was to misinform the special services, foreign citizens and other interested parties about the state of health of the president.
The opposition organizations in the republic are persecuted, so they operate abroad. The Uzbek government have databases on republican citizens who are abroad, and this is explained by the need to disclose those who are acting against the government of the republic. The structures of the Ministry of the Interior, with the support of district militias, rapporteurs and local councils, should clarify the exact location and purpose of the trip for each Uzbek citizen who has left the foreign country.
The people of the Republic have limited access to information about opposition organizations, as well as limited opportunities to join the opposition because of the strict control of the country under cover of security measures. At the same time, the low standard of living conditions for the population and related problems contribute to the increase in dissatisfaction that could lead to protests, but they would most likely be controlled forcibly by the state.
In the spring of 2011, the Youth Movement "Etar!" ("Enough!")1 On the Internet announced that an unending protest action will be launched in the center of Tashkent in the summer, aimed at getting President Karimov to leave peacefully. Participants in the movement called on the people to gather in the center of Tashkent, taking food for several days, tents and radio stations. Representatives of the "Etar!" also turned to the power structures, calling on them "not to commit a criminal offense regarding the use of weapons and dispersion of members of a peaceful protest action". There was no protest action.
In May 2011, the founding meeting of the new organization "The People's Movement of Uzbekistan" was held in Berlin, which united the "May 13 Union" (established in 2009), the company "Tayanch" ("Support") and the organization "Andijan - Justice and Revival", as well as two republic-based underground organizations and three foreign-based organizations. The motion statement included a call for civil disobedience and an offer to ignore presidential orders. Defining its purpose, the new organization established as priorities the fight against corruption and the creation of a level playing field for all the people of the republic, regardless of nationality, racial or religious affiliation; but the main enemy was "dictator Karimov".

Photo: bbc
Bahodir Choriyev

Muhammad Salih, the political leader of the “The People's Movement of Uzbekistan”, said that after the uprisings in North Africa and the Arab countries, the political and social climate in Central Asia had changed. "People stopped being frightened and expressed their dissatisfaction with I. Karimov's regime. However, our protest potential has not yet been applied to real campaigns. Our movement will address the transformation of this potential into real civil disobedience in mass actions across the country,” said M. Salih. However, in Uzbekistan, no protest campaign was conducted.
In June 2013, Bakhodir Choriev, leader of the opposition movement "Birdamlik" ("Unity"), was organizing a campaign aimed at raising the international community's attention to problems in Ubzekistan - he organised an American truck carrying posters calling for condemnation of human rights abuses in Uzbekistan. During the trip, he met the representatives of the Uzbek community. B.Choriev stressed that his personal ideas in the Uzbek language were translated by Jean Sharp in the book "From Dictatorship to Democracy", which summarizes the experience of the abolition   of authoritarian regimes. According to B. Choriev, there are many supporters in Uzbekistan, who regularly send money transfers in order to prepare for major protests. B. Choriev proposed to organize campaigns in Uzbekistan in 2012 and 2013, inviting citizens to express dissatisfaction with the existing government, by wearing white clothes or taking some white items. The call was not supported.
Muhammad Salih, the political leader of the “The People's Movement of Uzbekistan”, said that after the uprisings in North Africa and the Arab countries, the political and social climate in Central Asia had changed. "People stopped being frightened and now express their dissatisfaction with I. Karimov's regime.
The Ministry of Higher and Secondary Special Education supported the 23-page set of rules of conduct in which young people were called to avoid "outrageous" clothes, criticisms of educational institutions and the participation of Uzbek people in foreign cultural events, but teachers and trainers were instructed to observe and eliminate behaviours that were alien to Uzbek national values. Teachers, among other things, had been ordered to stay in Internet cafes so that students and students did not come up with any "dangerous" independent party ideas, play games with violent elements, or express bad behaviour using social media.
The Law "On Protection of Youth from Harmful Ideology and Aggressive Information" was drafted.
 

Foreign policy

Uzbekistan has a multi-directional foreign policy, extensive cooperation with many countries, but Tashkent does not allow foreign interference in home affairs. Following the declaration of independence in 1991, Uzbekistan's foreign policy had a tendency to approach the West, but the allegations of human rights abuses in the United States and the West in 2005 in the Andijan disturbances stopped this trend and cooperation was restored a significant time later.
Uzbekistan has an external threat posed by the fragile situation in neighbouring countries (Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan), as well as the activities of international terrorist organizations and the possible penetration of militants inside the republic. President S.Mirziyoyev emphasized the need to build good neighbourly relations with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, and in September and October 2016, several talks between Uzbek and neighborhood officials took place.

Photo: tengrinews
(from the left) Shavkat Mirziyoev and Nursultan Nazarbayev

During the Presidency of Islam Karimov (1991-2016), Uzbek foreign policy depended mainly on his personal preferences, which hindered the development of relations with both neighbouring countries and other countries. In its turn, the international isolation of Uzbekistan was facilitated by the crackdown on the army in Andijan in 2005 and the withdrawal of the US military base from Karshi (Washington issued a strict condemnation of the riot, and Tashkent demanded the removal of the base). After the riots, Uzbekistan had only good relations with China and Russia.
As S.Mirziyoyev became president, the situation changed – during one year he met with leaders from all the neighbouring countries and acknowledged the importance of developing mutual cooperation in several areas. Although S.Mirziyoyev has emphasized the necessity of expanding co-operation, he emphasized that Tashkent still does not plan to join any military-political blocs, and pointed out that it was essential to focus on the development of the republic's economy. To this end, several cooperation agreements have already been concluded with neighbouring countries, as well as China and Russia. In addition, S.Mirziyoyev expressed a positive attitude towards Uzbek migrant workers in Russia (I.Karimov called them "slums who are the motherland of Apache") – meanwhile their transfers account for 12% to 15% of Uzbekistan's GDP. Russia would also be interested in broader cooperation with Uzbekistan, including Moscow, to positively assess Tashkent's return to the composition of the Collective Security Treaty Organization and joining the Eurasian Economic Union. But for the time being, Sh.Mirziyoyev expresses declarations on the desire to expand contacts, but cooperation agreements have not yet been prepared.
At the beginning of March 2017, Sh.Miriziyoyev visited Turkmenistan to discuss bilateral cooperation prospects with the President of this country, Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, signing several cooperation documents, including a strategic partnership agreement. This was the first visit of President S.Miriziyoyev of his presidency, and it was a surprise, as experts predicted that on the first visit, the president would attend to more influential actors in world and regional politics - Russia or Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan's Deputy Prime Minister Ulugbek Rozukulov and Rust Azimov also visited Turkmenistan in preparation for the presidential visit, whose task was to agree on a discussion of economic cooperation documents.
Visiting Turkmenistan, the holder of the neutrality status, was likely to demonstrate Uzbekistan's desire to be restrained in displaying some "political sensitivity." In its turn, the second visit in May 2017 confirmed the pragmatic thinking of Tashkent and the plans announced by Uzbekistan to double the natural gas extraction by 2022 and increase its export volumes to China and Russia. Exports of natural gas to Turkmenistan are the main source of income, and Ashgabat's cooperation with Beijing is increasing. In order to ensure China's growing demand, Turkmenistan has stopped deliveries of natural gas to Russia and cut Iran. Therefore, it was important for Ashgabat to agree on a "distribution" direction, and Ashgabat and Tashkent could cooperate in strengthening the routes of transportation of goods.
During the Sh.Mirziyoyev’s visit a memorandum on bilateral co-operation in the development of the Caspian shelf in Turkmenistan (geological research and development of deposits) was signed between Uzbekistan's “Uzbekneftegaz” and Turkmenistan concern “Turkmennebit” (“Turkmenistan Oil”). Such cooperation would increase the burden on the oil refineries of both countries, and this agreement was the first operation of “Uzbekineftegaz” outside Uzbekistan.
Although the relations between the states are peaceful and without any controversy, the visa-free regime for border residents was abolished in 2013. About 10% of Turkmenistan's population is Uzbek, but the country does not have schools with Uzbek language and Uzbek language media, and traditional Uzbek women clothing is prohibited – Turkmenistan's national identity policy is being implemented in its independence years.
In 2013, a strategic partnership agreement was signed between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. This document marked a new level in national co-operation, because it emphasised both its significance and its non-compete nature. There was a "battle" for leadership in the region between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, because Uzbekistan was the most numerous, while Kazakhstan was the most economically developed republic in Central Asia.
Sh.Mirziyoev’s official visit to Astana took place in late 2017, was widely reported in the media, as neighbouring countries had historically been rivals for leadership in Central Asia. Uzbekistan has the largest population in the region, while Kazakhstan is the most economically developed and stable republic, although terrorist and extremist threats continue to rise there in recent years, and in several republic cities there have been terrorist attacks. Therefore, in the framework of the visit of S.Mirijiva, economic, political and economic cooperation – as well as terrorism, cross-border crime and extremism – were discussed. The liberalization processes proclaimed by Uzbekistan, however, raised concern in Kazakhstan - Economy Minister Timur Suleimenov described it in his list of five external risks for the development of Kazakhstan, explaining that Uzbekistan was a country with high ambitions and opportunities. "We are accustomed to having an economic hegemony in Kazakhstan in the region, but now the situation may change. The battle for investment and markets can begin," said T. Suleimenov.
Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is planning to resolve all border issues between the two countries in the near future. The countries have no territorial disputes, but now it is necessary to clarify the border between Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is about 2100 km and its demarcation is already underway.
State relations are complicated by Tajikistan's commitment to build a Rogun hydroelectric plant, which Tashkent considers as a threat to the ecology and agriculture of neighbouring countries. However, since Sh. Mirziyoev has been a leader in Uzbekistan's neighbourly relations, there have been positive changes - mutual visits are being held, an agreement has been reached on the opening of the Tashkent-Dushanbe airspace (flights started early this year, but they are "in progresss" due to different formalities and do not happen as regularly as planned). While in April of this year, an exhibition of Uzbek products was held in Dushanbe, during which time the first forum of Uzbek and Tajik businessmen was also held.
In December 2016, a meeting between the Tajikistan-Uzbekistan Intergovernmental Trade and Economic Cooperation Commission took place in Dushanbe. Issues related to the opening of rail and bus traffic between countries and changes to the visa regime were discussed (visa regime between countries was introduced in September 2000 on the initiative of Uzbekistan).
In February 2017, talks between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan's railway companies on the construction of a new railway that would bypass Turkmenistan and allow a significant reduction in the time of transfer of passengers and goods, as well as the united republics with Kazakhstan and Russia. In recent years, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have tried to reduce their mutual transport infrastructure because of Tashkent's categorical refusal to allow the construction of the Roguna hydroelectric power plant in Tajikistan. In 2009, Uzbekistan stopped rail traffic between the three Ferghana Valley areas and the central part of the republic, as some railway sections passed through the Sughd area (northern Tajikistan). In order to ensure traffic between all areas of Uzbekistan, the Anren – Pap railway line was put into operation in 2016. In turn, Tajikistan in 2016 completed the construction of a railway line connecting the capital with the southern part of the republic, bypassing Uzbekistan.
At the beginning of June 2017, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan signed a protocol on the delimitation of common border disputes. This document was finalized in Dushanbe, where the second meeting of the two governments' working group took place (the first one was at the end of 2016). Detailed information on the contents of the protocol was not disclosed, but the document confirms the activation of the cooperation, since the discussions in 2009 were virtually stopped (in 2002, an agreement was signed on the Tajik-Uzbek border). The total length of the national borders is 1,333 kilometers, and about 60 kilometers are disputed territories. One of them is the Farhad Hydropower Plant and a reservoir whose membership can not be agreed upon since the collapse of the USSR.
Contacts with Kyrgyzstan have become more active since Uzbekistan's leader is Sh.Mirziyoyev. In October 2016, the Kyrgyzstan delegation - about 130 representatives from various state structures, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, as well as the Osh, Batken and Jalalabad districts – visited the Andijan area following a friendly invitation by Uzbekistan. The delegation met with the Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Adham Ikramov and the Head of administration of the Andijan Area, Shuhratbek Abdurahmanov, as well as visits to the car company and meetings with representatives of the Kyrgyz community. A frontier co-operation memorandum was signed between Osh, Batken, Jalal-Abad and Andijon, Ferghana and Namangan as part of the visit. The leaders of the areas agreed to meet each month to discuss topical issues of border cooperation. Despite optimistic statements, there was no news related to the abolition of border crossing restrictions (Kyrgyz citizens are prohibited from crossing the border with Uzbekistan, with the exception of those who go to funerals, weddings – providing evidence by a telegram or invitation –  or cross Uzbekistan via transit road to other countries).
Almazbek Atambayev, President of Kyrgyzstan, arrived in Samarqand in December 2016, and during the last eight years he was the first Kyrgyzstan leader to visit Uzbekistan. The reciprocal visits did not take place due to the reluctance of the parties to develop cooperation and resolve disagreements, mainly in border areas where there are disputed areas that are not delimited or demarcated. There have been several incidents between Uzbeks and Kirghizs, including in August 2016, when eight Uzbek militias descended from the Mi-8 helicopters, due to this controversy over the border area, including the Ungartu mountain region. Bishkek had demanded explanations on the disarmament of the Uzbek militias in the area of disputes and their departure from them, while Tashkent has called for the release of the Uzbek militia detained in the Hungartu mountain region and the removal of Kirghiz militaries located at the Ortotokoy reservoir (a section of the Uzbek law-enforcement bodies is also located at the reservoir, from which the arrested militia went out).
The conflict in the Hungarian mountain district also took place in advance - in March 2016, Uzbekistan disarmed two armored personnel carriers, trucks and 40 soldiers near disputes. Kyrgyzstan also stepped up the technique at the border. After weeks of talks, the parties moved technics and soldiers from the dispute territory.
An agreement on the demarcation and delimitation of the state border at a later stage (for the remaining 15%, that is, about 200 kilometers) was signed in September 2017, which S. Mirziyoyev visited Bishkek. About 14% of southern Kyrgyzstan's population is Uzbek, and they positively assessed the border crossing simplification, which became possible after the signing of the agreement.
The Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations were negatively affected by the ethnic conflict in the south of the country during the coup in Kyrgyzstan in the summer of 2010, which killed 276 Uzbeks (charged with ethnic hatred in Uzbekistan and non-recognition of legitimate power).
In mid-December 2017, the official visit of Tashkent to Kyrgyzstan's newly elected President Soronbay Jeenbekov (in this position from November 24, 2017) was on his official visit, emphasizing that this is his first foreign visit as presidential (on November 29, 2017, he visited Russia on a working visit).
Shortly before the visit of S.Jeenbekov, Kyrgyzstan MPs proposed to transfer four old people’s homes in the region of Issyk-Kul to Uzbekistan (the land remains in Kyrgyzstan's ownership).
Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan have also solved the issue of the Orto-Tokoy reservoir (Jalal-Abad, Kyrgyzstan) - now it is under the jurisdiction of the Kyrgyzstan Water Management Department. According to Kyrgyzstan's Agriculture Minister Nurbek Murashev, 8% of the water will be used by Kyrgyzstan and 92% from Uzbekistan at a cost of  229500 USD a year.
Uzbekistan's political cooperation with Afghanistan is neutral, although the threat of drug smuggling and possible incursions by militants from a neighbouring country are at stake. Abdul Rashid Dustum (a general of Uzbek origin) was established with Karimov's support in the province of Faryab. In the province, the Uzbek population has increased from 48% to 85% since 1992.
In January 2017, an official visit of the Uzbek foreign affairs minister Abdulaziz Kamilov to Kabul took place, where he met Humayun Kajumi, the Afghan Economic Affairs Assistant, and Mohammad Shakir Kargar, Special Representative for the Development Cooperation with Central Asia and Russia. Negotiations resulted in an agreement to increase the volume of trade between the countries to $ 1.5 billion, as well as several cooperation documents for the development of transport infrastructure (railways and cars), the creation of a joint commission for security matters, and others. The Uzbek business delegation with Afghan colleagues concluded contracts for the supply of medicines, household appliances and other goods for USD 49.3 million. The trading house of JSC “Uzsanoateksport” (Uzbekistani Industrial Export) was opened in Kabul.
In the early years of Uzbekistan's independence, the republic hosted refugees from Afghanistan, as well as Tajikistan (mostly ethnic Uzbeks), where a civil war was raging. Most of these refugees are still not Uzbek citizens, but at the end of 2016 and in February 2017, about 400 people have acquired Uzbek citizenship - a decision was signed by S.Mirziyoyev (citizenship was attributed to citizens of the republic who for various reasons stayed abroad when the law "On Uzbek Citizenship" came into force, that is, in 1992).
As part of the optimization of the President's administration, a Political Legal Affairs Service had been set up within its structure, which had already developed a draft program for providing asylum to foreign nationals who were persecuted for their political views (under the constitution, the president has the right to decide on the granting of asylum and Uzbek citizenship). Probably, the establishment of a new service was indicative of Uzbekistan's desire to intensify its foreign policy, including receiving political refugees from abroad. The readiness to receive refugees from Afghanistan, where the situation does not become more stable, could also be attested to the Tashkent commitment to engage more actively in international processes and to decide independently on controversial political issues. It could not be ruled out that the decision on the admission of asylum seekers was taken to prevent the prosecution of international human rights organizations in the pursuit of the opposition and to create a positive image of the republic, which in turn could create a more attractive effect on potential investors.
In December 2017 Ashraf Ghani, Afghanistan's President, visited Tashkent to sign 14 cooperation agreements with S.Mirziyoyev. Among other areas of cooperation, the presidents agreed on the construction of an electricity transmission line between Surxondaryo (Southwest of Uzbekistan) and Polihomri (Northeast Afghanistan), which will provide power supplies mainly to industrial sites. It is planned that construction works will be launched in the near future.
At the beginning of September 2016 (shortly after I. Karimov's funeral) Russian President Vladimir Putin arrived in Samarqand on a private visit. He attended the burial site of I. Karimov and, meeting with Sh.Mirziyoyev, expressed the hope that close cooperation between the countries will be continued.
Sh.Mirziyoyev visited Moscow on an official visit at the beginning of April 2017, and signed 16 documents on economic and investment cooperation for the amount of 3.5 billion USD (55 agreements totaling 16 billion USD were signed in total).
Although in the media the visit of S.Mirziyoyev was not described as a sensation and, as expected, there was no Uzbek return to the Organization of Collective Security Agreement (a member of the organization in 1992-1999 and 2006-2012) or joining the Eurasian Economic Union, however, an agreement was reached on the intensification of bilateral co-operation, which would affect Uzbekistan's development over the next decade. In addition, the visit confirmed the commitment made by S.Mirziyoyev at the inauguration to build both good relations with neighbouring countries and cooperation with other countries.
Prior to the visit, S.Mirziyoyev made broad-based preparations for the event, including at the end of March 2017, an agreement ratified by the parliament on the expansion of military technical cooperation with Russia. The first president of Uzbekistan, Islam Karimov, strongly rejected the admission of the republic to the military political blocs (as evidenced by the withdrawal from the Collective Security Treaty Organization), while S.Mirziyoyev spoke out at such a possibility, but does not deny it could happen.
Tashkent and Moscow have agreed that Uzbekistan will receive customs duties of up to 200,000 tons of oil per year from Russia. Perhaps this agreement has "far-reaching consequences", namely, Uzbekistan's invitation to join the Eurasian Economic Union. Currently, about 3 million tons of oil is produced per year in Uzbekistan, while the state's three oil refineries total 11 million tons a year, that is, Tashkent needs to buy oil to recycle it at its own factories. It is planned that oil transit from Russia could be provided by Kazakhstan. The launch of oil supplies to Moscow is a "political victory" as it could ensure Russia's influence in Uzbekistan.
An agreement has been reached with Russia on Bauman Establishment of Moscow Technical University in Tashkent. It will promote the republic's engineering deficit in the engineering industry, which is planned to be developed in the near future, as well as revitalize the operation of the Tashkent Aviation Plant. Russia has also expressed readiness to invest in Uzbekistan's mining and non-ferrous metallurgy.
Although cultural cooperation is not given much importance, it may have a strategic effect in the case of Uzbekistan and Russia, in particular through the media's ability to make the "right" move. Uzbekistan's information space is tightly controlled, opposition spending and Internet resources are virtually non-existent, and there are almost no negative views on Russia. In addition, the formal information space, including the Russian media in the republic, is not formally restricted, and it allows "connecting" information fields in their own interests.
Shortly after the visit of Sh.Mirziyoyev, the Uzbek Foreign Labor Migration Agency posted ads for more than 1,000 vacancies (drivers, seamstresses, construction workers) for work in Russia. Vice-President Julia Sluck, while visiting the Ministry of Labor of Uzbekistan, said she was ready to set up a Migrant Workers' Support Center in Ferghana where it would be possible to receive information and prepare documents for work in Russia (a certificate on Russian language management, a medical certificate, a copy of a notarized passport, etc.). According to J.Sluck, the association plans to establish about 3,000 Uzbek citizens in Russia in the near future. At the same time, a representative from the Uzbek Ministry of Labor said that about 2,000 Uzbek specialists would be hired at the Volgograd bearings production plant and 12,000 - the Renaissance construction company. According to various calculations, Uzbek migrant workers in Russia account for 11% of Uzbek GDP, while the proportion of Uzbek migrants reaches 17.7%.
Russia is interested in engaging in projects in the petroleum, chemical, electrical, mechanical engineering and pharmaceutical sectors, as well as developing a "green corridor" (facilitating customs and sanitary design for food cargoes) from Uzbekistan. In 2016, the volume of agricultural production from Uzbekistan has doubled.
Uzbekistan's rapprochement with China intensified after the 2005 Andijan riots, when Beijing expressed its support for Tashkent. I.Karimov's first foreign visit after the riots came to China. Several investment projects have been signed between countries. In 2013, a free industrial zone was established in the Jizzakh district (central part of the republic) in cooperation with China. Chinese banks have allocated several loans to Uzbekistan, but the Chinese National Petroleum and Natural Gas Company CNPC launched an industrial exploitation of the “Mingbulak” oil field in 2014.
In May 2017, a formal visit to China was held by Sh.Mirziyoyev, in which 105 cooperation documents were signed for a total of more than USD 22 billion (including agreements on energy and irrigation, liquefied natural gas supply and installation of three natural gas condensate fields), as well as several meeting with the representatives of Chinese majors and discussions on the implementation of mutually beneficial projects in Uzbekistan, attracting new technologies. The President discussed with China's leader, Xi Jinping, and government representatives, opportunities for strengthening long-term cooperation and priority perspectives, as well as topical issues of regional and international politics. In addition, at the beginning of May 2017, Sh.Mirziyoyev participated in the international forum on the implementation of the "New Silk Road" project proposed by China in 2013. The forum was attended by a total of 30 representatives of governors and governments as well as international organizations, and S.Mirziyoyev had the opportunity not only to speak in a forum supporting the Chinese initiative but also to discuss opportunities for cooperation with leaders from many countries in informal meetings of the meeting.
The project "The New Silk Road" brings together the projects "The Economic Belt of the Jade Road" and "The 21st Century Sea Loaf Path", which involves connecting the majority of Eurasian countries. Xi Jinping proposed the creation of the "New Silk Road", stating that it would link territories with 63% of the world's population and its predicted economic turnover could reach 21 trillion USD a year.
For Uzbekistan, this project is important for attracting Chinese investment, developing industry and infrastructure, and engaging in regional transport and communication projects.
Chinese companies are taking an active part in the geological exploration of the Uzbek hydrocarbon deposits, while the Jizzakh Free Economic Zone is implementing joint projects with Chinese direct investment. In Uzbekistan, there are 704 enterprises with capital of China. 
In 2001, Uzbekistan allowed the use of its territory to support coalition forces, including the United States Aviation Base at Karshi-Khanabad. After the riots in Andijan in 2005, relations between the states deteriorated as the US sharply criticized Uzbekistan for disproportionate use of force against peaceful citizens and called for an independent investigation into the riots. At the end of 2005, the US Aviation Base was transferred and US non-governmental organizations expelled from Uzbekistan.
The relationship began to improve in 2007 when a new US ambassador was appointed, with I. Karimov stressing that there was no disagreement between Uzbekistan and the West. Several US officials visited Uzbekistan and multiple agreements were reached, including the withdrawal of coalition forces from military equipment from Afghanistan, as well as the renewal of military technical cooperation between the United States and Uzbekistan (US military assistance restrictions for Uzbekistan were abolished in 2010). In 2013-2015, US technical assistance to Uzbekistan totaled $ 542 million.
In 2011, I.Karimov's visit to Brussels, which was the first after the riots of the Andijan, was confirmed, and confirmed the EU's desire to normalize relations with Uzbekistan. EU Member States in Uzbekistan rank second (after Russia) in terms of trade turnover. In 2013, a regional representation of NATO was opened in Tashkent, aimed at strengthening dialogue and practical cooperation between the Alliance and its partners in the region.
In the period from 2001 to 2015, Germany leased the airport of Termiz for the transportation of humanitarian and security cargo to Afghanistan. Berlin also invested around 12 million euros in modernization of the airport.
Tashkent expresses spiritual intercourse with the muslim world, including restoring Islamic architectural monuments in the country, but I.Karimov emphasized that the development of relations with Muslims, especially the Arab states, is a priority in the foreign policy of the republic.
Uzbekistan is a member of several international organizations, including the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, supporting its political and economic projects. For example, Uzbekistan strongly advocates tackling Afghanistan's security concerns, believing that a further escalation of the situation in this neighbouring country can directly affect Uzbekistan's stability. Uzbekistan actively supported India and Pakistan becoming more fully-fledged members of the organization. Since 2004, the headquarters of the Regional Anti-Terrorism Center of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization has been located in Tashkent. The Center was set up with the aim of improving national co-operation in the fight against terrorism, separatism, extremism, the illicit trafficking of drugs and weapons, and the illegal migration of people.
Despite successful cooperation with a number of countries, Uzbekistan's priority is cooperation with neighboring countries, as evidenced by several initiatives, the most important of which is the annual consultative meeting of five Central Asian leaders proposed by Sh.Mirziyoev. To promote regional integration, in the autumn of 2017he proposed to hold an informal meeting of Central Asian leaders, the first such meeting being held in Astana on 15 March 2018. It was both a tribute to Kazakhstan and its leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, who had the greatest authority and "weight" among all the region's leaders, both in Central Asia and in the world. The meeting could also be assessed as an attempt to demonstrate withdrawal from Russia and China, the region's main allies, and a desire to strengthen Uzbekistan's role and influence.
The second Central Asia Leaders’ Consultation Meeting was scheduled for spring 2019 but was postponed due to a conflict between Tajikistan and Turkmenistan resulting from Dushanbe's refusal to build its section of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Tajikistan railway. The construction of this railway was proposed by Tajikistan as the country was in a transport deadlock due to poor relations with Uzbekistan, which by 2016 had almost completely blocked the transit of goods to Tajikistan through its territory. Turkmenistan has already built a 273 kilometer stretch of this railway, and the Tajik stan’s caused great discontent. Turkmenistan leader Gurbanguli Berdimuhamedov declined to attend the first Consultative Meeting of Central Asian Presidents and temporarily suspended the transit of goods from Iran to Tajikistan. However, at the CIS summit in Ashgabat in October 2019, Sh.Mirzijoyev succeeded in "reconciling" the Presidents of Turkmenistan and Tajikistan and they agreed to come to Tashkent on November 29 to the second Central Asia Consultative Meeting. Within the framework of the meeting, vital issues of regional importance were discussed.
G.Berdimuhamedov suggested assessing prospect of launching Business Council to develop a unified strategy for all countries for key economic partnership directions as well as recommendations for governments. He also stressed the necessity to tackle ecological problems in the region, saying that water conservation and rational use of it was a priority. As part of the meeting, Tajik leader Emomali Rahmon was elected chairman of the Aral Sea Rescue Fund (Turkmenistan has been chairman of the fund for three previous years). Kazakhstan's Nation’s leader, Nursultan Nazarbayev, was awarded honorary chairman status and he proposed to mark March 15 as Central Asia Day and plan a meeting of security council secretaries in 2020 to strengthen stability in the region.
In the context of regional cooperation, the perspective could be a strategic partnership between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Both countries are the largest in the region in terms of territory, population, resources and economies, and are neighboring countries. Economic integration would allow the creation of a large free market, encourage the introduction of new technologies, industrial development and increased exports. A strategic partnership would address common issues, including security issues, as well as the problems of the Aral Sea and its region. At the same time, the growing economic and political influence of China and Russia could be mitigated. For Uzbekistan, a partnership with Kazakhstan would also provide secure access to the sea and the World Ocean to expand exports of its goods.
Uzbekistan has borders with all the countries of Central Asia, it has the largest population, and Tashkent emphasizes its of foreign policy inclination towards expanding regional cooperation and taking responsibility of events in the region. This is evidenced by the active involvement of Tashkent in holding international conferences on the stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan, which is affecting the whole region. There has been a long-standing competition between Tashkent and Astana for leadership in the region, and now Uzbekistan has great potential to become a leader as Kazakhstan has a particularly domestic dimension – a power change and stabilization.