Events


Embassy of Uzbekistan

Date : Jul 16, 2018
Time : 6:30PM To 8:30PM
Place : Embassy of Uzbekistan 1746 Massachusetts Avenue NW Washington, DC 20036

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Uzbekistan has a unique, rich culture that has been influenced throughout its history by different groups and empires competing for control over the territory. The Persians, Macedonian Greeks, Mongols, Soviets and Russians have each passed through the area and left their lasting marks on the culture and its people.  Art forms such as suzani embroidery and ikat reflect the significant cultural influence that is established within Uzbek crafts. Uzbekistan possesses natural resources and growing economy. It is a member of several international organizations, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States and most notably, the United Nations.

On July 16, 2018, His Excellency Javlon Vakhabov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the United States, opened the Embassy of Uzbekistan to the World Affairs Council – Washington, DC (WAC-DC). Ambassador Javlon Vakhabov addressed attendees alongside introductions and presentations made by WAC-DC Board members, Hon. Jim Moran and Amb. Laura Kennedy.


The event began as Dr. Matthew Shank presented himself to the audience as the new Interim President and CEO of the World Affairs Council – Washington, DC, and expressed gratitude on behalf of the Council to the Embassy of Uzbekistan for hosting the event. He moved on to introduce Amb. Laura Kennedy, who spoke to her personal relationship with Amb. Vakhabov , as well as to her diplomatic experience in Central Asia. She ended her remarks by introducing Amb. Vakhabov to the audience.


Amb. Vakhabov began his remarks by discussing Uzbekistan’s plan to open itself up to the world, informing the Council’s audience exclusively for the first time that new visa regulations have recently been implemented to allow 51 countries easier access and travel to Uzbekistan. Amb. Vakhabov went on to share the Uzbek government’s plan for extensive, irreversible reform, as well as its intentions to strengthen their strategic partnerships with their neighbors in the region. The Ambassador expressed his desire to bring other countries, such as Afghanistan, to the negotiating table to discuss regional security with the hope of long-term peace. Amb. Vakhabov briefly touched on improving Uzbek-American relations before opening up the floor for questions.


Amb. Vakhabov fielded questions from the audience regarding reform in the cotton industry, the role of women in Uzbek society, and the preservation of scarce resources. The Ambassador spoke extensively on expanding research in joint efforts with American universities on Uzbekistan’s agricultural efforts, as well as official refugee policies in Uzbekistan and how they will change in coming years.


Hon. Jim Moran then took the stage to express gratitude to the Ambassador for his remarks and his hospitality, and presented him with a certificate of appreciation from the Council and its board. After the program ended, guests enjoyed traditional Uzbek food and beverage at the discretion of the Embassy’s chef.

The World Affairs Council-Washington, DC is a non-partisan organization which seeks to expand awareness of international affairs amongst the American public.  We provide a neutral forum for the discussion of various issues in our inter-connected world.


What follows are the official remarks of the H.E. Javlon Vakhabov, Ambassador of Uzebekistan to the United States, and were provided to the Council by the Embassy.

 

 

 

 

 

Remarks

by Ambassador Vakhabov

Embassy Series, World Affairs Council

Embassy of Uzbekistan, Washington, DC

July 16, 2018 18.30-20.30

 

            Dear President Shank,

            Congressman Moran,

            Ambassador Kennedy,

            Ladies and gentlemen!

 

            I am very delighted to welcome all the participants in this very magnificent building of our Embassy that has eye-witnessed many developments starting from staggering history of the United States to the present day Uzbek-American relations.


            Allow me to express sincere gratitude to World Affairs Council of Washington, DC for organizing this important event at our Embassy. I would also like to congratulate Dr. Shank with his new tenure as President and CEO of the Council. In fact, it’s his first day in office and here we are at the Embassy of Uzbekistan. It looks very symbolic!


            Today, I would like to introduce “The New Uzbekistan” which continues literally opening up to the world. Yesterday, on July 15th the electronic visa system started operating. Now, citizens of 51 countries including the US are able to apply for 30-day visas online. Moreover, all the visa requirements are fully abolished for transit passengers from the US and other 100 countries as well as for children under 16, who are planning to stay no more that 5 days in Uzbekistan. From 2019, Uzbekistan will also start receiving tourist with the special Silk Road Visa, which means that you will be able to travel to Uzbekistan, having a visa to any country of our region and even China. I have to confess that you are the first whom I deliver this news directly. And I am very hopeful you will be the first travelers who submits application using E-Visa.


            In this regard I would note that last week Uzbekistan was marked by the famous “Lonely Planet” web site as the second top travel destination in Asia. In turn, the last Gallup Global Law and Order 2018 report put Uzbekistan as the fifth safest country in the world.


Today Uzbekistan is a completely different country than it was several years ago. Youth, who have received education in world leading universities during are backbones of sustainable development process full of creative and innovative ideas unseen in Uzbek history.


After the Presidential elections in December 2016, we have instituted reforms that are ambitious in aim and extensive in scope. Just after inauguration Shavkat Mirziyoyev arranged large-scale state and social transformations. It was decided to follow the principle of an understandable and transparent domestic policy.


In February 2017 after a broad public discussion "The Strategy of Action for the Five Priority Areas for the Development of the Republic of Uzbekistan in 2017-2021" was adopted. The document, as a reference point for the development of Uzbekistan in the next 5 years, allows not only judge what steps can be expected from the government, but also define the criteria of implemented political and economic reforms effectiveness.


I would divide ongoing reforms figuratively on following pillars.


            First pillar is ensuring good governance. President Mirziyoyev after taking his office started reforming the entire system for the prosperity of ordinary citizen. The government refocused its attention to serving for the benefits of people as a paramount goal. We put an end to the period when people worked for the government. All government agencies now work for the people whose interests are top priority. A newly elected President opened up a “virtual reception” accessible to all citizens and demanded the same from all central and local senior officials. Governors and parliamentarians started meeting with their electorate. Thousands of complaints flooded in and were duly documented; most were addressed. These steps made officials at all levels of government feel increased responsibility in following the new administration’s goal to serve the interests of people.


Special attention is paid to eliminate the corruption on all levels. The first law that was signed by the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev was the Anticorruption Law, which is entered into force in early 2017 and was followed by a state anticorruption program.


            Second pillar is strengthening the rule of law. This includes ensuring "true" independence of Uzbekistan's judiciary and greater protection of citizens’ rights – the area where Tashkent has historically received major criticism from watchdog groups and the international community alike. In speech after speech, paper after paper, the new leadership reiterates such phrases as “increasing political competition,” “invigorating civil society”, “developing a civic culture,” “expanding transparency,” and “protecting human rights.” It is doubtful that these noble phrases are being uttered today with greater frequency in any other country on earth.


On the economic front, which is Third pillar, the Uzbek government has embraced a series of measures – from currency convertibility to the privatization of various industries with the intention to make the country more dynamic and competitive. All these steps have already generated positive reviews from institutions like World Bank, IMF, ADB and etc. However we aim high! Our objective is to become one of the world's top three fastest-growing economies by 2019 and top 20 in the World Bank’s “Doing Business” report.


Fourth pillar is the reform of social sphere. The current changes in Uzbekistan are organized around solid commitment to improve the welfare of the nation. We are working on improving the access of our population to high quality public education, healthcare, employment, and etc.

We clearly understand that ignorance and intolerance lie the ground for international terrorism and extremism. In this regard the key attention should be paid to eliminating the root causes of these threats, rather than combating their consequences.


We pay special attention to religious education in Uzbekistan. The Islamic Academy of Uzbekistan, Tashkent Islamic University, Mir-Arab Madrassa of higher education, 9 other Islamic secondary educational institutions, Orthodox and Protestant seminary are the institutions, where people can get very good education on religious matters. Furthermore, the works on establishing the Centre for Islamic Civilization, which will oversee Islamic education in Uzbekistan, is underway. The Center with its academy, library, manuscript archive and other facilities will conduct scientific researches aimed towards studying the genuine and humanistic essence of Islam. In collaboration with the OIC Uzbekistan is also planning to establish Imam Al-Bukhari International Research Center for the purposes of conducting comprehensive Hadith studies.


According to preliminary updates of Uzbek law enforcement agencies starting from 2017 almost 23 thousand people charged with religious extremism and terrorism crimes for the first time in modern history of Uzbekistan have been excluded from so called “black lists”, and 1,5 thousand were released.


We appreciate that our efforts are widely recognized by the United States. Namely, State Department’s last report on trafficking in persons upgraded Uzbekistan to Tier 2. And, Uzbekistan will be featured prominently in the upcoming Ministerial Conference on Religious Freedom in Washington in July 25-26, 2018 hosted by the Honorable Mike Pompeo, Secretary of State of the United States. This is a testament to our comprehensive efforts aimed at ensuring religious freedom in Uzbekistan.

 

Fifth pillar is the most public element of Uzbekistan's new strategy – its foreign policy. We have started to put in practice the principle “Central Asia is the main priority Uzbekistan’s foreign policy”. First of all, during the first half of 2018 trade turnover of Uzbekistan with Central Asian countries increased to staggering 46% in comparison to the same period of 2017 reaching almost $2 bln. We have established strategic partnerships with Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan. A number of important documents on intensifying our strategic partnership with Kazakhstan were signed. Our cooperation with Tajikistan shifted to fundamentally new level of mutual trust. We have managed to reach understanding on long-term sensitive issues including border security, trans-boundary water management, transport corridors, and etc. Signing of the Agreement on state borders with Kyrgyzstan agreeing on 85% of a joint border has become a significant step in ensuring security and stability in Central Asia. It has also netted numerous new transport links between Uzbekistan and other regional states, including flights to Tajikistan in the south and a rail link to Kazakhstan in the north.


Important agreements were reached with the neighboring Afghanistan as an outcome of President Ghani’s visits to Uzbekistan in December 2017 and March 2018 to participate at the “landmark event” a high-level International Conference on Afghanistan with the participation of over 20 stakeholders in Afghan peace process.


These efforts have been recognized by the international community via adoption of the resolution of the UN General Assembly “Strengthening regional and international cooperation to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development in the Central Asian Region” on June 22, 2018. The document, the draft of which was developed by Uzbekistan jointly with the neighboring states of Central Asia, was unanimously supported by all the UN member states.


Couple of words regarding the Uzbek-American relations! As you are aware, President Mirziyoyev for the first time in history paid an official visit to the United States in May 2018 at the invitation of President Trump. Joint Statement titled “The United States and Uzbekistan: Launching a New Era of Strategic Partnership” adopted by the two leaders underscores the enduring commitment on both sides to deepen strategic partnership and cooperation on a wide range of issues of mutual interest. 


As an outcome of the visit we signed over 20 major business deals with United States companies worth more than $4.8 billion. We work closely with Congress. On November, 2017 after a lengthy pause we welcomed Congressional Delegation headed by congressman Trent Kelly of Mississippi. We will establish a Caucus on Uzbekistan pretty soon. All in all, our countries closely cooperate on such important issues as regional security, including Afghanistan, economic cooperation and reforms as well as people-to-people ties. I can go on and on. But, I will stop here in the interest of time.


In conclusion, I would like to underscore that reforms are irreversible. Main requirement of our President from his administration is to make the changes now so that Uzbek people can feel improvements in their lives today not tomorrow or in a distant future. And I am proud that we have already great success stories.

 

Thank you very much for your attention.

 

I am ready to answer your questions.


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