The following article was contributed by the Embassy of Uzbekistan in Seoul for publication by The Korea Post media, publisher of 3 English and 2 Korean-language news publications since 1985.—Ed.
After achieving its independence, in accordance with national and state interests, the Republic of Uzbekistan determined the priority directions of its foreign policy. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is one of the countries that established diplomatic relations with Uzbekistan from the first years of independence.
In November 1992, the Consulate of Uzbekistan in Jeddah started its activities, and in May 1994, it got the status of Consulate General. It can be noted that the first legal foundations of diplomatic relations were formed from this period. Since May 1995, the Embassy of the Republic of Uzbekistan was the first among the Central Asian countries to open in Riyadh, and since March 1997, the embassy of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has been operating in Tashkent.
After establishing diplomatic relations, on November 18, 1995, an Agreement was signed between the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on cooperation in the fields of trade, economy, investments, technology, culture, sports and youth affairs, which created the legal basis for bilateral cooperation in these areas, and until now this agreement shows its practical importance.
The cooperation of foreign political agencies also plays an important role in the relations between the two countries. In 2005, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed between the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia on conducting political consultations. Since then, the foreign political offices of the two countries have started the practice of regular political consultations.
Significant results have been achieved in cooperation between the Republic of Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia in the fields of security, education and construction. On November 27, 2010, an agreement was signed between the government of the Republic of Uzbekistan and the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on cooperation in the field of combating terrorism, organized crime, illegal circulation of narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances, as well as other crimes. This period begins with the formation of the legal basis of cooperation in the field of security and fighting against crime, and later some activity is observed in cooperation in the fields of economy, trade, and technology. Since 2010, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Republic of Uzbekistan have signed several inter-governmental and inter-departmental agreements in economic, trade and investment fields.
It can be said that the state and future development of bilateral relations, as well as issues of cooperation within the framework of international and regional organizations, are in the eyes of Tashkent and Ar-Riyaz. In May 2014, the delegation of Uzbekistan participated in the first economic forum “League of Arab States – Central Asia, Azerbaijan” in the city of Ar-Riyaz, and according to the results of the visit, a memorandum on cooperation was signed between them.
It can be seen that in2005-2015, the development trends of the issues of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia were formed, first of all, in the issues of security and the fight against crime, and then cooperation in the trade and economic sphere was developed.
We consider 2016 to be a new stage in the development of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia. In this period, along with economic, political, social, cultural collaboration, great attention is paid to the development of the legal basis of investment cooperation.
In particular, since the first years of this period, from May 28 to July 3, 2016, with the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministries of Justice of the two countries, the development of cooperation in the legal field was observed. Also, negotiations with members of the government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia expanded. Cooperation with Arab countries within the framework of international organizations, in particular with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Islamic Development Bank, became more active.
Speaking of cooperation within the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, it should be noted that Uzbekistan hosted the 43rd session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the OIC in Tashkent on October 18-19, 2016. At this event, an agreement on financial cooperation with Saudi Arabia and the Tashkent Declaration were signed.
On May 21, 2017, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan visited Saudi Arabia to participate in the Summit of Arab-Muslim countries and the United States at the invitation of the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. Within the framework of the summit, the President of Uzbekistan met with the leaders of a number of countries, as well as with the King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud.
It can be observed from the above that active official visits have specific importance in the development of bilateral relations.
It is worth noting that in the development of cooperation between Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, the agreements signed with the Saudi Development Fund for the implementation of projects in Uzbekistan in several directions are of particular importance.
For example, in 2011, an agreement was signed between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the Saudi Development Fund in the city of Jeddah on the financing of the work on the reconstruction of the Guzar-Chim-Kukdala highway. The Saudi Development Fund allocated 30 million US dollars for the reconstruction of this highway. Also, projects were implemented by the Saudi Development Fund for the development of the irrigation system and general education schools.
Since the new period of 2016, cooperation with the Saudi Development Fund has continued. An example of this is the bilateral meeting of the delegation of the Saudi Development Fund during its visit to Uzbekistan regarding the financing of the “Residential construction on rural land” project. Such projects are showing their practical results in 2018, 2019, and 2020.
If we look at cooperation with Saudi Arabia, the legal basis of bilateral cooperation of the Republic of Uzbekistan with Saudi Arabia consists of about 20 documents from the years of independence. It should also be noted that cooperation agreements on Hajj and Umrah pilgrimages are renewed every year. Along with international intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements, the importance of economic agreements aimed at the development of economic cooperation is increasing. In particular, an investment agreement was signed between the Saudi company ACWA Power and the Ministry of Investments and Foreign Trade, according to which it is envisaged to design, finance, build and operate the thermal power plant ACWA Power for 25 years. As part of the project, ACWA Power will attract $1.2 billion in direct investment and create more than 1,000 jobs during the construction and operation phases. The power plant produces 12 billion kWh of additional electricity per year. This facility will be commissioned in the fourth quarter of 2023.
Of course, it should be noted that since 2016, the signing of intergovernmental and interdepartmental agreements has accelerated in the new period. The legal basis of cooperation is being improved through the agreement on the establishment of a new, modern joint investment company, agreements on the modernization of agricultural infrastructure and the establishment of a modern agrocluster, agreements on the establishment of renewable energy, solar power plants.
To further develop the economic potential and opportunities of Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia, as well as cooperation at a higher level, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev will pay a state visit to Saudi Arabia on August 17-18 at the invitation of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques – King of Saudi Arabia Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud. This visit will be the first visit of the President of Uzbekistan to Saudi Arabia in the last 30 years. Particular attention will be paid to the areas of green economy, high technologies and digitization, innovation, small business and entrepreneurship.
We are sure that during the visit, multifaceted cooperation between the countries will be further expanded, and the expected signing of a large set of bilateral documents will further enhance the scope of relations between the two peoples, based on the principles of long-standing religious and cultural-educational friendship and brotherhood.
Кomil Rashidov, Professor of the International Law Faculty of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, Doctor of Law, Mahinora Mirhamidova, Associate Professor of the International Law Faculty of the University of World Economy and Diplomacy, PhD