Uzbek-Kazakh brotherhood re-established
Glitzy Astana lacks the architectural gems of neighbouring Uzbekistan.
Uzbekistan’s president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has visited Astana in Kazakhstan to boost his reputation as a benign neighbour while repairing Uzbek standing in Central Asia.
It was his second official visit as president, following the recent trip to Turkmenistan.
Kazakhstan’s head of state, Nursultan Nazarbayev, told a joint media conference: “Uzbekistan is our strategic partner, neighbour and brotherly country.”
Nazarbaev emphasised the importance of the two “brotherly” countries’ cooperation, while Mirziyaev said the pair “carry a great responsibility to preserve peace and stability in the region”.
Nazarbayev, an advocate of regional integration, struggled in his relationship with late Uzbek president, Islam Karimov. He twice removed Uzbekistan from the region’s Collective Security Treaty Organisation, shunned the Eurasian Economic Union and often closed his borders.
Nazarbayev this week referred to Karimov as “my great friend” but he also acknowledged his new partner.
“Recently, our relations have developed in a totally different way”. In the last four months of last year, when the guard changed in Tashkent, Nazarbayev said trade increased by 30 per cent. “This is thanks to how the new leadership in Uzbekistan has open all opportunities to trade and lifted barriers. There are no unresolved issues between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan — not territorial, not with the borders, not with politics or the economy. We are open, like a blank page that is to be filled with good deeds that will benefit our peoples,” the Kazakh president said.
Mirziyoyev has prioritised the resolution of border disputes. Doubly landlocked Uzbekistan borders every other Central Asian state and has unresolved territorial disputes with Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan. Progress over the Kazakh dispute has been rapid.
Radio Free Europe quoted Nazarbayev saying that the two leaders would sign 75 contracts worth nearly US$1 billion at a Kazakh-Uzbek business conference on March 23.
Uzbeks outnumber Kazakhs by around 32 million to 18 million but Kazakhstan’s 2015 GDP was US$184.4 billion compared to Uzbekistan’s US$66.7 billion. But Nazarbayev is suffering from falling oil prices.
There is a joint declaration on “Further Enhancement of Strategic Partnership and Strengthening Good Neighbourliness”, a deal on “Inter-Regional Cooperation, Strategy of Economic Cooperation for 2017-2019” and an agreement on “International Road Transport”.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, Kazakhstan has largely been the principal Central Asian economy and diplomatic power, becoming something of a global player. Uzbekistan, by contrast, has often retreated but now has the potential to extend its influence.
During the visit the two leaders agreed to meet more frequently with Nazarbayev invited to to Uzbekistan.
Picture credit: Wikimedia