Welcoming speech by HE Otabek Akbarov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the United Kingdom, at the dinner dedicated to the 20th anniversary of Uzbek-British Relations at the Travellers Club
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am delighted to be with you today and celebrate together the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Uzbekistan and the United Kingdom.
As you probably know, ties between our peoples are rooted deeply into history when yet in the Fifteenth Century our great ancestors Amir Temur and the King Henry IV exchanged diplomatic correspondence with each other.
The foundation of our contemporary relations was laid in December 1991 when the United Kingdom recognised the Independence of Uzbekistan and then in February 1992 diplomatic relations were established.
Looking back to the passed period we can be proud of a number of achievements. First of all, a dialogue on the highest level was established. The President of Uzbekistan HE Mr Islam Karimov visited Britain with official visit in November 1993 when political and legal basis of our cooperation was created. In September 2010 our Head of State made a short transit stop in Stansted Airport where he was greeted by our friend Dr Hartley Booth OBE who handed over to him a welcoming message from the Prime Minister Rt Hon David Cameron.
We consider the United Kingdom as a one of the leading countries in the world and important partner for Uzbekistan. Obviously, during last years our ties received a new positive dynamics and became multi-faceted and forward-looking.
In our view, we have many common interests, in particular in such areas like assistance in stabilisation of situation in Afghanistan, ensuring regional security, fight against terrorism, organised crime and drugs trafficking, economic cooperation, protection of environment, as well as cultural and educational exchanges. We are also interested in closer partnership with London in implementation of the President’s Concept of further democratic reforms and strengthening of civil society, as well as objectives of the programme “2012 – Year of Family” in Uzbekistan.
These and other issues of mutual interest are discussed in the framework of regular consultations and visits by delegations from the ministries of foreign affairs, defence, foreign economic relations and other official bodies. Yesterday, in Tashkent our President received the UK State Secretary for Defence Rt Hon Philip Hammond, who also met with other ministers. The two sides plan to organise other important visits this year.
Following the desire from both sides, spectacular progress was achieved in interparliamentary ties in recent two years. Both sides established special groups in their parliaments aimed to advance exchanges in this area. I am speaking about the Group for cooperation with UK Parliament in our Oliy Majlis chaired by Senator Safaev and the Britain-Uzbekistan All-Party Group headed by our friend Lord Waverley. In September 2010 these groups signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
Our two countries have a significant unrealized potential for economic and investment cooperation. The main platform for our joint work in this area is the Uzbek-British Trade and Industry Council known as UBTIC. This structure, co-chaired by the Minister for Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade of Uzbekistan HE Elyor Ganiev and Dr Booth, plays an increasingly important role in promotion of opportunities for business cooperation.
Last year’s session of UBTIC in London was marked by the biggest attendance from British and international businesses - more than 100 representatives from 63 companies participated in the event.
Currently, the leading British investors in Uzbekistan are British-American Tobacco and Thetys Petroleum. An Engineering Centre created jointly with Worley Parsons is functioning in Tashkent. Promising negotiations are going on with Rio Tinto, Exxon Mobil and other companies.
I would like also to highlight our successes in cultural and educational cooperation. Opened in 2002 the International Westminster University in Tashkent is the first such institution created jointly with the London’s Westminster University abroad. It became one of the leading universities not only in our country but in the region as a whole.
We enjoy excellent ties with the British Council which has its representation in Tashkent since 1996. Among our successful joint activities I would point out exhibitions and shows organized together with the Fund Forum of Culture and Arts of Uzbekistan, as well as the INSPIRE program in the framework of which there were established partnership between 5 universities in Uzbekistan and 5 universities in UK.
We have been also successfully cooperating many years with the University of Cambridge, in particular with Cambridge Central Asia Forum headed by our friend Professor Montu Saxena. Currently, we are working together with them on the project of creation of a Centre of High Technologies in Tashkent which will be the first such centre of excellence in the region.
All the achievements would not be possible without mutual interest, openness, flexibility and constructive approach. In this regard, I would like to express my gratitude to all our British partners and friends for their contributions into rising of Uzbek-British relations to a new level. We are looking forward to continue our contacts and joint activities with you.