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Iran’s Supreme Leader Highlights Potential for Enhanced Cooperation with Uzbekistan

By Nigar Bayramli June 19, 2023

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Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev met Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi in Tehran, on June 18, 2023. / Khamenei.ir

Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has stated that the potential for cooperation between Iran and Uzbekistan extends beyond trade and transportation.

According to the Iranian state-run agency IRNA, Khamenei expressed this during a meeting with Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and his delegation on June 18.

“The grounds for cooperation, however, can extend beyond trade and transportation,” Khamenei said. “We can have further collaboration through various initiatives in the fields of science, technology, and other sectors.”

Khamenei further welcomed the reestablishment of relations between the two countries after a long hiatus, acknowledging that “unfortunately, Iran-Uzbekistan relations have been very limited for many years, and we hope that this visit and the discussions held in Tehran will mark the beginning of a better future for the two nations’ relations.”

Additionally, the Supreme Leader of Iran emphasized that his country has the capability to connect landlocked Uzbekistan to international waters through Turkmenistan and Afghanistan in order to promote trade and transportation.

President Mirziyoyev, in turn, expressed “disappointment regarding the breakdown in bilateral relations and the reduction in cooperation between the two countries.”

“We hope that with the discussions held in Tehran, we can take significant steps and elevate cooperation in trade, transportation, science and technology, and tourism to its deserving level,” he added.

Mirziyoyev is the first Uzbek president to visit Iran in over 20 years. During his meeting with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi on June 18, he focused on increasing bilateral trade and finding the most efficient transport routes linking Iran with Central Asia.

The two presidents discussed opportunities to enhance mutual trade volume and coordinate cooperation in the field of transport and logistics. Special attention was given to utilizing the shortest transport and logistics corridors connecting Central Asia with Iran.

Raisi expressed Iran’s intention to double the volume of bilateral trade without specifying a timeframe. In response, Mirziyoyev invited Iranian investors and private sector firms to participate in Uzbekistan’s economic projects.

The presidents also explored the implementation of joint investment projects in various sectors such as energy, chemical industry, pharmaceuticals and medical technologies, food industry, textiles, building materials, mechanical engineering, instrument making, electrical engineering, and agriculture.

During the talks, the delegations also discussed the exchange of experience in innovation, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology, cybernetics, and technology transfer. They expressed confidence that increased flights between the capitals of both countries would contribute to greater business contacts and mutual tourist flow.

Additionally, the presidents addressed the fight against international terrorism, drug smuggling, cyber-terrorism, and human trafficking. They agreed to continue the dialogue on strengthening peace and stability in Afghanistan.

Following the talks, the presidents signed a joint statement on reinforcing cooperation between their countries. They also signed 15 documents at the government, ministry, and regional levels.

These documents included an intergovernmental agreement on preferential trade, a cooperation program between the Technical Regulation Agency of Uzbekistan and the National Standard Organization of Iran, an action plan for cooperation in new technology and innovation, memorandums of cooperation in the fields of creating joint free economic zones, pharmaceuticals, transport and transit, a plan of joint measures in sports, a memorandum of understanding in dispute resolution and arbitration, as well as a non-binding agreement on cooperation in reinsurance.

On June 1, Iranian and Uzbek officials signed a memorandum of understanding aiming to increase bilateral trade to $1 billion within the next two years. The agreement was signed in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, during the 15th Iran-Uzbekistan Economic Joint Cooperation Committee.

According to official data on the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s website, the Iran-Uzbekistan trade volume reached $431 million in 2021. Trade between Uzbekistan and Iran nearly doubled over the past three years, and the number of Uzbek companies with Iranian capital tripled to 420 within the past five years.