Indeed, a new page has opened in relations between Uzbekistan and Turkey today, and everyone knows that political, trade, economic, investment, transport, cultural and humanitarian ties between the two fraternal countries have reached the highest level. Uzbekistan considers Turkey as one of the top twenty countries in the world in terms of economic potential, as a reliable and priority partner. In addition, close cooperation with this powerful state serves our national interests. Uzbekistan is an important part of Central Asia, and it is encouraging to hear that Turkey is interested in our policy of an open foreign policy, an effective market economy and the initiation of the emancipation process. Especially over the past four years, our bilateral relations have reached the level of strategic partnership. The similarity of the views of the head of our state Shavkat Mirziyoyev with the far-sighted policy of the President of the Republic of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan is also important.
Our meeting with the Chairman of the Planning and Budget Commission of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Mr. Lutfi Elvan, began with a discussion of this point.
– Dear Mr. Elvan, thank you for agreeing to give an interview for our publication and taking the time to do so. It should be noted that Turkey was the first of 200 countries to recognize the state independence of the Republic of Uzbekistan. Back in 1992, our countries established diplomatic relations and laid the foundation of current relations. It’s been 28 years. Of course, this is not a short period of time. What aspects of Uzbek-Turkish relations attract your attention now? What do you think about the essence and importance of relations between our countries?
– First of all, I am grateful to you, your magazine, for covering Turkish-Uzbek relations, as well as for the opportunity to express my opinion on this issue. Uzbekistan is a very important and valuable country for us. First of all, it is a country with which we share a common language, history and culture. We are very pleased that fraternal Uzbekistan is a prosperous, politically and economically stable state, integrated into the international community and contributing to this process.
Of course, the 1980s and 1990 were a period for Turkey that gave rise to serious socio-political and economic transformations, important diplomatic initiatives and new opportunities for cooperation with the combined impact of the radical changes in the world system that our country went through. The most obvious reflection of these events in Turkey’s foreign policy is found in the policy of the Caucasus and Central Asia. After the collapse of the USSR, the newly formed countries on the territory of 6 million square kilometers with a population of 60 million people gained their state independence. This event was met with great enthusiasm and joy. As then, we share the happiness of our fraternal countries in this region as independent and sovereign states that have emerged on the world stage. In the first half of the 1990s, we saw what efforts were made to use this potential through a number of political, economic and military agreements signed directly between the nations of the region and at joint summits. If we look at a concrete example, the Turkish Agency for International Cooperation and Coordination (TIKA) was founded in 1992 on the initiative and determination of Turkey in order to ensure close cultural and humanitarian ties with the Turkic community.
As for our relations with Uzbekistan, as you know, Turkey was the first country to recognize Uzbekistan’s independence in 1991. I would say that Uzbekistan has a special significance for Turkey. After gaining independence, Uzbekistan became Turkey’s most important trade partner.
As you may recall, at that time, after the top-level visits of the leadership and Prime Ministers of Turkey and Uzbekistan, the two countries signed agreements on many areas of cooperation, such as economic and trade relations, cultural, educational and scientific exchange, cooperation in healthcare, sports, tourism, and joint projects in the fields of communications and transport. The Turkish-Uzbek business Council was established. At that time, a large number of businessmen from Turkey invested heavily in Uzbekistan. Again, in the first half of the 90’s, when the Turkic countries regained their independence, taking into account all the humanitarian aid to the countries of Central Asia, it becomes obvious that the largest aid from Turkey went to Uzbekistan.
I can say that today the starting point for further development of relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan is the meeting held in November 2016 in Samarkand between the President-elect, Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and our President, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. This meeting opened the doors of a new era between the two countries.
Dear Presidents of the two countries met again in October 2017 already in Turkey. For 21 years, this visit to the Republic of Turkey by the Head of your State was the first official visit to Turkey and the first visit to a foreign country by the President-elect of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. During this historic visit, a number of agreements were signed in various fields, including a Joint Statement on establishment of the High-level Strategic Cooperation Council (SCC) between the two countries. Perhaps the most striking part of the official visits was the meeting of the leaders of the two countries in 2018 in the city of Bukhara, which can be considered the heart of the Turkish-Islamic civilization. This joint reception showed the world that beyond the borders of financial and political relations between the two countries lie the deep and strong roots of spiritual fraternal ties.
– There is no need to hide the fact that in the past years there was a gap in relations between our countries for some time. When President Shavkat Mirziyoyev took the office, this gap was immediately filled. For the fourth year in a row, Uzbekistan is considered one of Turkey’s closest partners in all spheres of activity. What do you think is the role of new Uzbekistan for Turkey at the moment?
– Uzbekistan is a country located in the heart of Central Asia, on the historical Silk Road, and due to its geographical position, it occupies an important place in trade between East and West. Together with Mr. Shavkat Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan has become a bright star in Central Asia.
Today, we see that Uzbekistan has begun to use this geographical potential for political and economic benefits through a new foreign policy strategy, and in this context, the country gives priority to establishing good relations with its neighbors and countries in the region. From this point of view, the new foreign policy strategy of Turkey towards Uzbekistan, which was formulated following the first state official visit of the President of Uzbekistan to Turkey, shows how important it was. We are very happy with your approach. I think that Turkey can play a key role in opening up Uzbekistan to the world community in the coming period. Recall that Mr. Mirziyoyev confirmed this after the talks in 2017, saying that Turkey is considered a reliable and important partner of Uzbekistan, which has a high reputation in the international arena.
I would like to emphasize that independence of the foreign policy and sovereignty of states is at the core of our relations, and this makes it clear that we are moving in the same direction. Realizing that both countries can benefit from partnership, in relations between Turkey and Uzbekistan I consider it important to actively cooperate.
– During the visit of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to Turkey in February this year, the first meeting of the High-level Strategic Cooperation Council was held. Could you tell us about the activities of this Council, which is called “a new form of dialogue in the history of bilateral relations”?