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Home / Other / Analysis / Abdulaziz Kamilov: Key Goal Is to Ensure Security ...

Abdulaziz Kamilov: Key Goal Is to Ensure Security and Peaceful Life of the People

An open dialogue between the authorities and society on pressing issues of foreign policy is a rare event. Such a communication has become possible by the establishment of the International Press Club in Tashkent, which is designed for interactive coverage of events in Uzbekistan.

The International Press Club (IPC) was registered in the Ministry of Justice of Uzbekistan as a non-governmental non-profit organization. The Public Council of the new NGO has included senators, MPs, scientists, heads of state bodies, representatives of international organizations and journalists. The official opening of the IPC will be held in Tashkent on May 2, 2017.

Balanced information about changes taking place in all areas of life will now be fully accessible to the general public. The authorities would not be limited to formal reports, but enter into a dialogue with experts, members of civil society, journalists, hear their initiatives, comments and proposals. As noted by International Press Club Chairman Sherzod Kudratkhojaev, this is the first ever press club in Uzbekistan, which aims at strengthening the openness of state power, public control over the system of checks and balances, as well as over the ongoing reforms in the country.

EACH HAS ITS ‘OWN GOVERNMENT’

The global concept of ‘open government’ implies access for society to statistics, state information, reporting on pressing issues. Each country takes certain steps in this direction.

For example, there is a portal in the US, where citizens can make proposals to any draft regulatory act and see the reaction of its developers. A similar resource in Canada allows everyone commenting on the documents that are developed by the authorities and require public discussion.

The Russian Federation has been practicing the annual telecast ‘Live Session with the Head of State’, which has turned into a ritual communication between the President and the people. It has dramatically enhanced the opportunities for dialogue between the Russians and their leader.

Scotland has built a unique system of municipal public councils of representatives of different strata of society, who regularly come together to address relevant municipal issues. In case if the issue is pressing, the authorities conduct a compulsorily survey among residents.

The ongoing Action Strategy on further development of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021 envisages streamlining of the system of state and public construction, and ranks the enhancement of transparency of government bodies, development of various forms of civil society participation in the development and decision-making among the pivotal priorities. The system of interactive communication aims at bringing power closer to the needs of the people. Virtual receptions of government officials were the first step in this process, to be followed by the International Press Club, where openness and specifics in the answers of executives are seen as the main criterion of trust.

The first IPC meeting took place in a confidential and free atmosphere. The communication platform demonstrated the overcoming of previously existing gaps. For the first time in the history of Uzbekistan, the head of the foreign policy authority, Abdulaziz Kamilov, spoke openly about the extremely sensitive issues of foreign policy. Along with him, First Deputy Chairman of the Senate of the Oliy Majlis Sadik Safayev answered questions of experts, heads of diplomatic missions and international organizations, representatives of local and foreign media.

Abdulaziz Kamilov: All the actions, plans and strategy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs are built within the framework of the common Actions Strategy of our state. They are based on the fundamental pillars - global development trends and the situation in the region. The key goal we keep in mind when taking all possible political and diplomatic decisions is, above all, ensuring the security and harmonious life of our people. This implies a formation of a kind of welfare belt around Uzbekistan.

What is the ‘welfare belt?’ How can it be formed? What are its components? The logically sound questions were immediately addressed to the Minister. He answered in an accessible form, briefly and clearly: "We need to create external favorable conditions for the internal sustainable development of our economy."

Foreign Policy Dimensions
New aspects of foreign policy in the wake of significant changes in political, economic and social life in Uzbekistan ranked among the most discussed in the forum.

Taking into account that the Development Strategy for 2017-2021 focuses on enhancement of cooperation with the nearest neighbors in the region, the participants spotlighted the issues of building harmonious relations, above all, with the Central Asian states.

Touching upon one of the most sensitive issues of rational use and distribution of trans-boundary waters and other natural resources, the Minister noted that Central Asian countries should come to a region-wide agreement on these issues. “We believe that there is no alternative to the achievement of a region-wide agreement. There are states in the upper reaches, there are states in the lower reaches, and there are only two rivers - the Amudarya and the Syrdarya. We have to come to such a regional agreement, when each country will clearly represent its rights and duties,” the Foreign Minister emphasized.

There are some international mechanisms of regulating disputes and compensating damage to resolve the problem. In particular, the UN Regional Center for Preventive Diplomacy in Central Asia has recently distributed two conventions on the Syrdarya and the Amudarya in all states in the region, as well as in the United States, Russia, the European Union and the World Bank. The project should also be handed over to the PRC. “The preliminary introduction to these conventions shows that there are quite reasonable approaches to address this very complicated problem. I hope our neighbors will also pay attention to the UN proposals, and we will be able to embark on a mutually interesting dialogue,” said Abdulaziz Kamilov.

“We need to proceed from the fact that this is a common problem, which affects common interests and interests of each state, so the achievement of a reasonable compromise has no other alternative,” the Minister said. “We are to work much and hard, as I assume, but, nevertheless, against the backdrop of great progress on other issues, we hope we will move in the right direction.”

The Minister dwelt on the results of the visits of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and the Russian Federation.

Turkmenistan:
The leader of Uzbekistan paid its first foreign visit to Turkmenistan. The talks centered around transport, transit and energy. The sides discussed joint initiatives on the transport route Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Caspian Sea-South Caucasus with access to the Black Sea ports of Georgia, Turkey, Romania and other countries. Another emphasis was made on the creation of the transport and transit corridor ‘Central Asia-Middle East’ (Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman). The routes will allow Uzbekistan to get access to the ports in the Black Sea and the Persian Gulf, reduce the export cost of Uzbek products and dependence on other transport routes.

Abdulaziz Kamilov assessed the visit as highly effective, taking into account an impressive package of bilateral documents signed between the countries, and reflecting a broad range of cooperation.

Kazakhstan:
The visit of the President of Uzbekistan to Astana resulted in five interstate and intergovernmental, seven interdepartmental documents, 15 business contracts totaling more than $800 million, as well as a dozen of documents worth $97 million, which were signed in the wake of the business forum.

The Economic Cooperation Strategy for 2017-2019 aims at increasing mutual trade up to $5 billion by 2020, while in 2016 the indicator slightly exceeded $2 billion. This will require a serious intensification of interstate multilateral cooperation.

Russia:
Creation of favorable conditions for expanding supplies of Uzbek fruit and vegetable products to the Russian market, including the introduction of the ‘green corridor’ system, will allow Uzbekistan increasing exports. Further negotiations on the formation of competitive tariffs for transportation of foreign trade cargo by railways of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Uzbekistan will ensure the effective loading of existing transport corridors.

It is worth to note agreements in the field of natural resource extraction and technological cooperation. The projects include a framework agreement on cooperation between Asaka Bank and Gazprombank on financing the construction of a smelting plant in Tashkent, joint implementation of investment projects in the oil and gas, mining and metallurgical industries, staff training and retraining in the oil and gas sector, construction of a copper-processing complex.

Abdulaziz Kamilov: Politics is not pursued for the sake of politics, but to address vital interests of our peoples.

In general, the scale of the agreements concluded during the three visits has demonstrated the expansion of the economic and transport aspects in the foreign policy agenda of Uzbekistan. It is also worth mentioning the strengthening of direct cooperation between regions and cities.

A new trend

Another new trend in Uzbekistan's foreign policy comes to the focus on the human dimension of interstate relations - development of tourism, support of the health sector, regulation of labor migration processes, the improvement of operation of border points. In this context, journalists were interested in the role of ‘people's diplomacy’.

Maintenance of cultural and humanitarian ties, according to the Minister, is very important from the point of view of building mutual trust. Relations between states can not be complete, integrated and harmonious without the cultural and humanitarian dimension. “You can pragmatically trade, but at the same time hate each other. Such relations have no prospects. That is why Western politicians urge for the development of ‘People to people ties’, that is, relations between people, which always enriches the bilateral agenda, makes it more stable and creates a basis for greater mutual trust, which is exactly what is missing in the modern world,” said the head of the Ministry.

Abdulaziz Kamilov: We live in an unpredictable world, when trust is lost between certain states, between certain leaders. Our policy must be based on firm and clear principles, and at the same time it must be flexible, because it is not a dogma. Meanwhile, a flexible policy does not mean unreasonable compromises. The policy should be offensive, and proactive.

As noted by the minister, the question about the committing of a terrorist act in Sweden by a citizen of Uzbekistan, which still remains in the focus of the foreign press, was quite expected. It was replied as follows: "Detained by law enforcement agencies of Sweden for committing a terrorist act on April 7, 2017, in Stockholm, Rahmat Akilov is a citizen of Uzbekistan, born in 1978 in the Samarkand region.

In 2014, Rahmat Akilov went to Stockholm, where he worked at construction sites. During his stay abroad, he was recruited by emissaries of the international terrorist organization Islamic State by Internet. According to information available, he actively encouraged his compatriots to go to Syria to participate in military operations on behalf of the Islamic State. He repeatedly disseminated propaganda videos of terrorist content through his Internet messengers to his relatives and other people in Uzbekistan, trying to persuade them to commit violent actions against officials of Uzbekistan's authorities, administration and law enforcement agencies.

The Internal Affairs Department of the Samarkand region initiated and is investigating a criminal case with regard to Rahmat Akilov for the crimes stipulated by articles 127, 244 and 244-1 of the Criminal Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan. He is accused of involving a minor in antisocial behavior, production or distribution of the information that threatens public security and public order, in creation, management and participation in religious extremist, separatist, fundamentalist or other prohibited organizations.”

Abdulaziz Kamilov: Previously, information about illegal acts of Rahmat Akilov was transferred through special services to one of our Western partners for further informing the Swedish side. This fact suggests that the threat of terrorism and extremism is global and, accordingly, countering these challenges requires adoption of extensive international coordinated efforts.

In the same context, a domestic journalist asked the Minister about a possible threat posed by Syria toward Uzbekistan, to which Abdilaziz Kamilov replied as follows: “There are undoubtedly challenges for the states of Central Asia and for European countries, as a consequence of the fact that some migrants from those regions join various extremist organizations and trends. There is a problem, it must be recognized and it must be combated. But as for Syria itself, I would say, based on my four years of experience there, this country is not rich in terms of oil and gas reserves, while it is unique from the point of view of culture, the oldest civilization, from the point of view of powerful ties and millions of bridges that connect the Syrian people with the peoples of the region. It remains to be regretted that this slowly disappears from the map of the world. However, the hope for consensus is not lost.”

Rehabilitation of the Silk Road
An active discussion has unfolded around the transport corridors, which is not surprising, because Uzbekistan is a country with no access to the sea. In this regard, the participants pointed out to the relevance of development of a unified state policy in the field of transport, which would tackle legal and institutional problems of transformation of Uzbekistan into an important transport hub of Eurasia and an important link in the reconstruction of the Great Silk Road.

Sadik Safayev: Today we see the re-creation of the Great Silk Road in a new format. The leadership of the country draws close attention to this issue. This implies not just opening of new roads and development of transport corridors, not just railways and highways. This is about the ‘corridor of development’.

According to the First Deputy Chairman of the Senate of Oliy Majlis, traffic flows are a highly profitable commodity. The use of transit capacity of Uzbekistan might be one of the main sources of foreign exchange earnings, turning the country into a transport hub. In turn, that would not just hasten economic growth, but would also contribute to strengthening the country's geopolitical position in the world arena.

Abdulaziz Kamilov: The importance of transport communications and their strategic relevance for Uzbekistan can hardly be overestimated. In this context, it is highly relevant to correctly make use of the unique geostrategic position of the republic.

BOLSTERING IMAGE
Those who are familiar with the new image of Uzbekistan, associates it with security, openness, sustainable economy and modernization. The crux of the matter is to strengthen this positive image in the world arena. Of course, a certain opinion about the country was built on a historical context, but, as is known, the reflection of a country in the mass media of other countries is the ‘litmus test’ for its unbiased image.

Abdulaziz Kamilov: The image of the country is built on many factors, with a spotlight on domestic and foreign policy. When I worked in the US, I came across such representatives of rich states who thought they could buy their country's image by paying a large sum to a certain edition. But it does not work. The formation of a positive image is a huge and long-term work both inside and outside the country. Therefore, we have diplomats in each embassy who are responsible solely for this mission. Meanwhile, we should keep in mind that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs alone can not build the image of the country, it is a common mission of all agencies of the country and every citizen.

In this context, the Minister was asked about the cooperation of the Foreign Ministry with foreign media: “Is it possible for Uzbekistan to provide permanent accreditation to reporters of the largest foreign agencies that can form its positive image abroad while working in the country?” “Of course, it is possible,” replied Abdulaziz Kamilov. “This process is already underway. We have nothing to conceal. And we are doing our best to be open to the world and for the world to be open to us.”

(As part of the social order of the Oliy Majlis Public Fund for Support of NGOs and Other Civil Society Institutions).
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