Interview: Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan have ‘clear and similar visions of progress’

JEDDA: According to Furqat Sidiqov, Deputy Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan, there are striking parallels between Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 reform program and the transformation plan of the Uzbek government, New Uzbekistan.

Speaking a day before Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev arrived in the Kingdom on Wednesday for a state visit – the first by a Uzbek leader since Islam Karimov’s 1992 visit – he revealed that these shared views bode well for the future of bilateral trade and cooperation.

“Saudi Arabia has the capacity to achieve the goals of its Vision 2030,” said Sidiqov. arabic news ahead of Wednesday’s Saudi-Uzbek Business Council meeting, hosted by the Uzbek consulate in Jeddah.

Furqat Sidiqov, interviewed by Rawan Radwan of Arab News, in Jeddah (Photo, Sultan Baajajah).

He added that the reforms and roadmaps drawn up by the two nations are similar and represent clear visions of progress, as do the vibrant young populations of both countries.

“The two countries are working closely and advancing in joint cooperation within the framework of our strategies,” said Sidiqov. “We are closely following the Kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 strategy and we support its candidacy for Expo 2030.”

Over the past five years, Uzbekistan has implemented a national development strategy aimed at facilitating its transition to a market economy, which has provided fertile ground for the growth of small and medium-sized enterprises and a more diversified economy. , he explained.

An Uzbek cook prepares plov – better known as pilaf – at a cafe in Tashkent (Photo, AFP).

Sidiqov said the strategy echoes Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, which has opened the Kingdom’s economy to take advantage of new sectors outside of hydrocarbons and actively encourages entrepreneurship as well as the development of technical skills and creativity among its young population.

For decades, Uzbekistan relied heavily on a handful of basic exports, including cotton, gold, oil and gas. Eager to diversify its sources of income, the country has opened up to foreign investment in agriculture, food security, energy, information technology and other sectors.

On Wednesday, in line with their complementary views, Uzbekistan and the Kingdom signed more than 10 investment deals worth around €11.8 billion, including a 25-year contract worth €2.36 billion. euros, which was concluded with the Saudi utility company ACWA Power for the construction of a 1,500 megawatt wind power project in Uzbekistan. This project will help the country reach its goal of covering 40% of its electricity needs from renewable sources by 2031.

The Saudi and Uzbek delegations signed several agreements involving private sector companies from their respective countries (Photo, Sultan Baajajah).

Uzbek officials reported that in recent years Saudi investments in various sectors of the Uzbek economy have increased significantly. There are now 38 joint ventures, 20 of which involve direct Saudi investors. However, according to Sidiqov, there is potential for even closer business cooperation, especially in the area of ​​food processing and distribution.

“The numbers do not reflect the capabilities of the two countries,” he insisted. “We are working with the Kingdom to increase the number of joint ventures.”

Uzbekistan is diversifying its sources of income and has opened up to foreign investment in the agricultural sector, among others (Photo, AFP).

“Agriculture plays an important role in the economic development of Uzbekistan and we are one of the leading countries in food production and food security and have the ability to export organic food products, fruits and vegetables to the Kingdom.

“The plan is to make the Kingdom an intermediate station for processing and packaging food, to prepare it for export to other countries,” he added.

Although they do not share a border, Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan have been linked by religion, knowledge and culture for hundreds of years. Among the historical figures who traveled and studied in the Arab and Muslim worlds, four are from present-day Uzbekistan: the physician Ibn Sina, the mathematician Mohammed ibn Musa al-Khwarizmi, Imam al-Bukhari and Imam al-Tirmidhi.

The site of Itchan Kala, an ancient walled city within Khiva, is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site (Photo, Shutterstock).

The exchange of ideas and cultures continues into the modern era thanks to the development of air travel between Uzbekistan and Arab countries, especially Saudi Arabia, and the relaxation of visa rules.

“To further encourage cultural exchange, direct flights will begin in October via Flynas and Uzbekistan Airways, and Saudis will be visa-free for a 30-day stay,” announced Sidiqov.

Today, cooperation between Saudi Arabia and Uzbekistan goes far beyond commercial and cultural exchanges and extends to the diplomatic sphere, guided by common security and humanitarian interests in the region.

Islam Karimov Airport in Tashkent (Photo, Shutterstock).

In the year since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan following the US military withdrawal from the country, regional powers such as Uzbekistan have tried to engage with the new government in Kabul in an effort to help the Afghan people through this difficult time.

“The humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is among the highest priorities and our government has implemented various initiatives and programs to support Afghanistan,” said Sidiqov.

“In a spirit of neighborhood solidarity, we ensure that our relationship is based on ongoing support. By working closely with the government, we not only want to provide humanitarian aid, but also help the country provide employment opportunities for its youth and be a gateway to Central and South Asia.”

Uzbekistan plays a big role in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan (Photo, AFP).

He added that in the southern Uzbekistan city of Termez, for example, the government has established centers to help Afghan youth receive education and develop their skills to prepare them for the job market.

“We are working to help rebuild programs and develop its economy to make it a country of opportunity,” said Sidiqov. “Our allies are helping and supporting us in this endeavor.”

Prince Faisal bin Farhane, the Saudi foreign minister, attended an international conference entitled “Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. challenges and opportunities(Central and South Asia: Regional Connectivity. Challenges and Opportunities) in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in July last year.

Saudi Investment Minister Khalid Al-Falih leads a delegation on an official visit to Uzbekistan in 2021 (Photo, Reuters).

In July of this year, a Saudi delegation also participated in the international conference “Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development(Afghanistan: Security and Economic Development), also in Tashkent, during which the Kingdom reaffirmed its commitment to promoting regional cooperation.

In June, Saudi Arabia announced a donation of €29.5 million to support the Humanitarian Trust Fund for Afghanistan, which operates under the aegis of the Islamic Development Bank in coordination with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, of which the Kingdom and Uzbekistan are members.

“As Afghanistan’s neighbor, our main objective is to allow safe passage of aid to people in need in Afghanistan,” said Sidiqov.

“We are working closely with the Afghan government to develop a roadmap for food security and provide employment opportunities for young people. We serve as intermediaries between the world and the Taliban and, as the “voice of Central Asia”, we encourage the Afghan government to deliver on its promises.

This text is a translation of an article published on Arabnews.com

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