Belarus and Uzbekistan agreed to develop large-scale cooperation in all avenues in the spirit trust and mutual support. The agreement was made at the negotiations between Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Uzbekistan President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Tashkent on 13 September.
The heads of state held narrow-format and extended negotiations. Besides, the one-on-one talks lasted for about three hours.
“You had to deal with a lot of problems, objective and subjective issues in the country. A 33-million-strong republic is a huge country, and you need to provide for your people. You need to preserve, unite and guide different religious, national and other movements. Therefore, I’ve told you that we are keeping an eye on what you are doing. And we are happy for you, especially for building relations with neighbors,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
He said that he had recently paid an official visit to Tajikistan, and the leadership of that country had praised the achievements of Uzbekistan. “The elites of these states have a very high opinion about your policy. Therefore, I am happy that you managed to determine the real course for Uzbekistan. We are very happy for you,” the Belarusian leader said.
The President thanked Uzbekistan for the support of about 19,000 Belarusians living there. “You also support the culture of Belarusians living here. I am convinced that they do not and will not create any problems for you,” the head of state stressed.
“I came here to thank you for nurturing this attitude to Belarus and Belarusians in Uzbek people. We are very similar indeed, we are hardworking people. We would be twice as rich now if we could sell and present our products like Uzbek people. I hope you will teach us,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The President invited his Uzbekistan counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev to build an Uzbek-style embassy near the Palace of Independence in Minsk.
“You have opened an embassy in Belarus. This proves that we are close friends. We will select a good site opposite the Palace of Independence for you to build a beautiful embassy in the style of Uzbekistan architecture,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
Shavkat Mirziyoyev agreed to consider the proposal. “It was my long-standing dream to open an embassy in Belarus. If we talk about friendly relations, we should open an embassy and work as it is expected,” he said.
According to the President of Uzbekistan, the bilateral relations have exceeded all the expectations in the past two years. “Belarus is our close friend and reliable partner. I think that over the last 1.5-2 years our relations in all the sectors have exceeded all the expectations. This shows what can be done if there is will and intention from the country's leadership,” Shavkat Mirziyoyev said.
Alexander Lukashenko talked about results of three hours of private negotiations with the Uzbek head of state during the expanded-participation talks.
“The key result of our negotiations – I want members of the government, high-ranking officials on both sides to hear it – is we’ve agreed that Belarus has no topics, which are closed for discussion or for consequent actions. If our Uzbek brothers see something they need in Belarus, it will be done immediately: either we will relocate the manufacturing enterprise to your territory or we will set up a joint venture,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The President mentioned the possible establishment of a light industry enterprise as an example. “We are going to farm cotton here, process it in Belarus, and sell on the markets, where cotton is not farmed,” he explained. “We have the technology and specialists, we’ve preserved the old school and the manufacturing base. Let’s talk about raw materials.”
“We are going to create it together. Let me tell you a secret: we don’t mind your becoming a shareholder in Belarusian companies. It will be your companies, too. And we are going to sell the best fabrics on the European market,” pointed out the Belarusian head of state. “I would very much like members of our government to hear it so that our Uzbek comrades would not complain later on.”
The two leaders remarked that Belarus and Uzbekistan have a potential to reach $1 billion in mutual trade. “Despite the fact that the trade between our countries has increased significantly in recent years, the potential is still hugely untapped. I have dreamed of $500 million in bilateral trade and have come here with these figures in mind. I was really glad to hear the Uzbekistan President speaking about $1 billion. If the President mentions such a sum, this means there is a goal. We are ready for this,” the Belarusian leader stressed.
The Belarusian head of state noted that in its foreign policy Uzbekistan and Belarus focus on mutually beneficial economic cooperation. “The economy is the foundation of any relationship. Once there is a strong economy, there are friendly relations and other things,” the President said.
At the negotiations Alexander Lukashenko also said that Belarus and Uzbekistan can branch out into the market of Afghanistan together. “We would like Uzbek friends to help us cooperate with Afghanistan. But we do not want to penetrate this market alone. We want to promote our products in that country together. Therefore, we can make products, including complex machine building equipment, in Uzbekistan and help Afghan people together. They will appreciate it, they need everything,” the President believes.
The head of state remarked that the market of Afghanistan does not need super harvesters and complicated tractors. They need simple equipment. “We are prepared to assemble such equipment in Uzbekistan and then sell it in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan,” he added.
The President emphasized that Belarus does not suggest setting up joint enterprises and sharing experience with Uzbekistan as an act of charity. “Uzbekistan is ready to pay for these technologies and to support the opening of joint ventures. What else do we need? Growing production needs markets, and a 33-million-strong market is a very attractive option. Apart from the market of Uzbekistan, there is a colossal region nearby,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
The President of Belarus also invited Uzbekistan to develop cooperation in the military industry.
“Today we’ve agreed that in addition to repairing and upgrading your hardware, flying machines, armored vehicles we can set up the relevant enterprises here and modernize military aircraft, armored personnel carriers, and combat tanks. There is a lot of military hardware of this kind in this region,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
“If you are interested in defense companies, they are open for you. If you need complicated command and control complexes, we make our own. Our army uses them. We can make some for you. If necessary, we can make more sophisticated rocket systems for you,” the head of state said.
He stressed that Belarus has nothing to hide from Uzbekistan as far as security is concerned. “The President understands in what world we live today and sets security and defense goals. If you are interested in our military schools and state security agencies, you are welcome to see them. We will hide no secrets from you,” the Belarusian leader said.
During the negotiations the presidents also exchanged opinions about the international agenda, confirmed readiness and eagerness to enhance the legal base to counteract terrorism and extremism, and oppose drug smuggling and other threats together.
Belarus and Uzbekistan signed 16 documents following the talks. The key documents make part of the intergovernmental agreement on social and economic cooperation for 2019-2023. This is a comprehensive document aimed at the development of cooperation in a variety of industries. Alexander Lukashenko and Shavkat Mirziyoyev adopted a joint statement. The two heads of state expressed their satisfaction with the progressive development of bilateral cooperation. They also expressed their belief that the implementation of the agreements will contribute to the further development of traditionally friendly relations between the two countries.
The agreement on Alexander Lukashenko’s visit was reached during the meeting in Samarkand two years ago. Back then Shavkat Mirziyoyev invited his Belarusian counterpart to visit Uzbekistan in two months.
“If the first president of Uzbekistan was alive, it would have been a more pro forma visit. I said we should put things on hold and prepare a more substantial visit. We should give a nudge to our bilateral relations and spur the intergovernmental commission. When we see the roadmap is nearly ready, we will meet. It is the story behind this meeting,” Alexander Lukashenko said.
“We haven’t come to Uzbekistan as tourists. I feel it already. We’ve come here bringing concrete proposals in response to demands and wishes of my friend and colleague, the President of Uzbekistan,” the Belarusian head of state noted.
“Belarus-Uzbekistan relations have recently reached a whole new level,” Alexander Lukashenko said. In his words, the two countries maintain an open dialogue based on mutual understanding, mutual trust and a sincere desire to develop all-round cooperation. For many years the relations between Belarus and Uzbekistan developed at a very slow pace. The head of state stressed that it will take three to four years for the two countries to make up for the lost time.
“Today’s talks were held in a very warm, friendly and fraternal atmosphere. The focus, of course, was on trade and economic cooperation, which, fortunately, has been successfully expanding in the recent years,” the President said.
Priority areas of cooperation should include the expansion of production cooperation in mechanical engineering, agro-industrial complex, transport and pharmaceutical industries, and information technology.
Alexander Lukashenko instructed the heads of ministries and major enterprises to decide on concrete projects in Uzbekistan. He also asked Deputy Prime Minister Mikhail Rusy to monitor the fulfillment of his instruction.
“If Uzbekistan needs a grain harvester, design the one the country needs. If they need a spinner plow, make the one that fits Uzbekistan instead of Belarus, Ukraine, or Russia. Let us work and benefit each other. It is not charity. Uzbekistan is a rich country and will become even richer in the future. It pays for such products. We should help it become even richer so that they could pay us even more after that,” the head of state said.
After the official negotiations the presidents opened the Made in Belarus expo featuring Belarusian products in Tashkent. Individual sections of the expo highlight various branches of the Belarusian economy, including mechanical engineering, transport, chemical industry, petrochemical industry, civil engineering and woodworking, agriculture and food industry, healthcare and pharmaceutics, light industry, science and technology, education, sport, and tourism.
Alexander Lukashenko and Shavkat Mirziyoyev examined the stands of the largest Belarusian industrial companies: BelAZ, MAZ, Belshina, and Belkommunmash. They also spent some time near the stands of Horizont, the State Science and Technology Committee, the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus, the state light industry concern Bellegprom, and the state food industry concern Belgospishcheprom.
Instead of simply hearing out reports about the products the companies make the heads of state talked to the businessmen to discuss possible joint projects and gave instructions to civil servants there and then to take a closer look at the possibilities. In particular, merchandise trade was mentioned as well as the organization of assembly and processing enterprises, the establishment of logistics hubs.
After that the heads of state went to see Belarusian passenger vehicles, agricultural machines, and road maintenance and construction machines on display.
Alexander Lukashenko and Shavkat Mirziyoyev also took part in the ceremony to open a new manufacturing wing of the Belarusian-Uzbek enterprise Amkodor-Agrotechmash. The heads of state were informed about the current operation of the enterprise and development prospects. As part of the opening ceremony the presidents watched an unusual show – a dance of loaders and tricky operations performed using excavators of local make.