Ambassador Series: Uzbekistan

Date : Oct 11, 2018
Time : 5:45pm - 7:30pm
Place : Horizon Ballroom, Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, 1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC

This event is in the Horizon Ballroom. 5:45pm-6:30pm Reception, 6:30pm-7:30pm Public Program


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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 in central Asia. 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.  Uzbekistan possess natural resources and its economy is growing.  It is a member of several international organizations, such as the Commonwealth of Independent States and most notably, the United Nations.

On October 11th, 2018, the World Affairs Council-Washington, DC hosted His Excellency Javlon Vakhabov, Ambassador of Uzbekistan to the United States. Ambassador Vakhabov discussed President Mirziyoyev’s commitment to wide-ranging reforms in Uzbekistan and the success of his administration in extending trade and political goodwill to neighbor countries in Central Asia, among other topics in an event open to the general public and WAC-DC members located at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center.


The event commenced with remarks by WAC-DC Board Co-chair Hon. Jim Moran, who discussed the geostrategic location of Uzbekistan in Central Asia and the tremendous role Amb. Vakhabov has played in introducing his country to the American people. He then introduced Amb. Vakhabov, who gave opening remarks and shared an informational video created by the embassy.


Following the conclusion of the video, Ambassador Laura Kennedy, a retired US Ambassador who served as US Ambassador to Turkmenistan (2001-2003), and is also Chair of the WAC-DC Board of Directors International Affairs Committee, initiated a moderated discussion on Uzbekistan’s foreign policy and regional posture. Amb. Kennedy


 began the discussion with a question about how Uzbekistan and its foreign policy has shifted since it gained independence 27 years ago, and what the spark was for actionable change in the region. Amb.  Vakhabov emphasized the demand by ordinary citizens for change that led to President Mirziyoyev’s commitment to an accountable government.

Amb. Kennedy also asked about the government’s policy toward Afghanistan and combating terrorism. Amb. Vakhabov mentioned the importance of educating young people to get at the root cause of many of the problems in the region. Amb. Kennedy also noted that His Excellency Vakhabov was celebrating exactly one year in his position, to which His Excellency responded with his main challenges and goals for the future.


To close the event, Amb. Vakhabov took questions from the audience about child labor, tourism, and outside investments in Uzbekistan. 

Ambassador Vakhabov previously spoke at a WAC-DC Embassy Series event in July.  His formal remarks from that event can be found here.

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.

Dear Congressman Moran,

Ambassador Kennedy!


Thank you for your very kind introduction.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the leadership of the World Affairs Council DC for the opportunity to address such a distinguished gathering. It is indeed a pleasure and privilege.


Dear Guests! 


As many of you remember, just recently we participated at the Embassy series and we hosted an event at our Diplomatic mission here in D.C. I had the pleasure of addressing the audience and speaking about “New Uzbekistan”, comprehensive reform efforts led by President Mirziyoyev. I would like to inform you that since our last meeting, just recently, Central Asia and Caucasus Institute led by Dr. Frederick Starr and Svante Cornell published a book titled “New Face of Uzbekistan” (demonstrate the book) and arranged its presentation on October 4, 2018. This is the first comprehensive material that documents reforms taking place in Uzbekistan today. It has been prepared by Western (American and European) experts on the subject and aimed at filling the vacuum of quality information about the scope of transformation that Uzbekistan as well as the whole region are going through nowadays. It is available at Amazon. I encourage you to have one for yourself and one for your mother in law.


Ladies and Gentlemen!


Indeed, with the election of a new president a program of massive reforms has been launched. We instituted transformations that are ambitious in aim and extensive in scope. The current reforms are all organized around solid commitment to the rule of law, elective governance, the rights of citizens, religious tolerance, an open market economy, cordial relations with the great powers without sacrificing sovereignty, and a new embrace of the Central Asian region itself as an actor on the world state.

The United States was one of the first to recognize Uzbekistan’s independence in 1991 and since then we enjoyed enduring US support for our Independence, Sovereignty and Territorial Integrity.

Promoting cooperation with the United States is a top priority for Uzbekistan's foreign policy. Our relations have multifaceted, long-term and multidimensional nature. Uzbekistan and the United States enjoy similar stances on a number of international and regional issues to include the problem of Afghanistan as well as countering global threats and challenges such as terrorism and extremism, drug trafficking, WMD proliferation.

The fundamental document of the Uzbek-American relations, which has predetermined the nature of our cooperation, is the Declaration on the Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the United States of America, dated March 2002.

We have a very comprehensive and dynamic agenda covering political and diplomatic, trade-investment, security cooperation as well as people-to-people ties. We scored some big progress in all of these spheres.

Namely, for the first time in 16 years we organized an official working visit of our President to the United States, launching “a new era of strategic partnership” between the two countries. During the visit, Uzbekistan signed over 20 major business deals with United States companies, which will be worth more than $4.8 billion and could sustain more than 10,000 U.S. jobs and open opportunities for billions of dollars in future U.S. contracts. We started attracting direct investments from the United States. In a couple of weeks, we will welcome historic first visit of US Secretary of Commerce to Uzbekistan, who will launch “American business week in Uzbekistan” that includes also the business forum of American-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce and the session of Trade Investment Framework Agreement Council.

Members of the House of Representatives led by Congressman Trent Kelly of Mississippi initiated establishment of first ever Congressional Caucus on Uzbekistan. Webster has become the first American University to establish its branch in Uzbekistan. We have registered First US NGO, American Councils on International Education since 2004, and first American news outlets, Voice of America and We have received recognition of our efforts in ensuring human rights to include labor rights, trafficking in persons, religious freedom to name a few.

We actively work together with the United States under the framework of regional cooperation format C5+1.

The United States supported our President’s Good Neighborhood Policy and policy of openness towards our Central Asian neighbors including Afghanistan.

A new president broke the dam, began an age of dramatic and positive reforms in the region. He immediately lifted bans on intra-regional transport and trader, resolved decades-old disputes over territorial claims, and rushed around the region building good-will with the other leaders.

We have important quantitative indicators – number of contacts between the heads of Central Asian states increased, trade growth, the implementation of major joint projects in the field of transport and industry. In addition, the level of political confidence between countries is gradually growing in the region.

We began to talk more about things that unite us, and not only in terms of a common historical and civilizational heritage. We began to recognize the existence of common interests. We began to understand more the need to find wholesome compromises on the most important regional problems. We began noticeably less to share our common history, less to focus on disagreements.

Today I can say with confidence that situation in Central Asia is fundamentally different from what it used to be just couple of years ago.

There are several reasons to claim that.

First, crucial agreements on delimitation and demarcation of state borders with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan were signed. The absence of these agreements provoked tensions with Bishkek and Dushanbe.

We reduced our disagreements on water use in Central Asia. So, we managed to eliminate the main sources of instability in the region.

Dozens of checkpoints have been opened at the borders of Uzbekistan with neighboring countries. Visa regime was liberalized. Citizens of Tajikistan can stay on the territory of Uzbekistan without visas within 30 days.

Second, regional trade is developing. The trade turnover between Uzbekistan and Central Asian countries for the first half of this year increased by 46% amounting 1.86 billion dollars. In the near future we plan to boost the volume of overall trade with the countries up to 5 billion dollars.

Thanks to the taken measures the cross-border trade with the neighboring countries has significantly increased. Thus, the volume of trade between the regions of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for the 1st quarter of 2018 increased by 50% and with Turkmenistan by 55 %.

Tashkent is also developing new forms of industrial cooperation with neighboring countries. In March last year we launched the joint production of GM Uzbekistan cars in Kazakhstan. Similar agreements on joint assembly of Uzbek buses and household appliances were signed with the Kyrgyzstan too. It is absolutely new tendency for Central Asia.

At the initiative of the President Shavkat Mirziyoyev the first Regional Economic Forum will be held in November in Tashkent, which is to serve as a platform for direct dialogue between business communities for the discussion of joint regional projects. The forum will also host the first meeting of the Deputy-Premiers of Central Asian states, which will help to foster cooperation by practical decisions.

The vivid symbol of new regionalism in Central Asia is the first meeting of the Central Asian leaders, which took place in Astana in March of this year. For the first time in the last 20 years, the leaders of the countries of the region met in regional format to discuss the most pressing regional issues, and to develop common approaches to their solution.

The forum in Astana showed that we could solve existing problems based on mutual compromises without external help.

Next meeting of the Central Asian leaders will take place in Tashkent, in March 2019.

Another symbol of new regionalism in Central Asia is the UN General Assembly resolution on "Strengthening regional and international cooperation in Central Asia", which was adopted in June of this year. It is truly historic event. For the first time in the history, Central Asian states showed in the one single UN document their consolidated position on the most pressing regional issues – water use, transport, regional security and etc.

The most important thing is that Russia, China, the United States and the European Union among other 55 countries became cosponsors of this document. It demonstrated that Central Asia could unite, not divide external powers.

Third, the new thinking about Central Asia changed our view on Afghanistan too. We have understood that Afghanistan is the integral part of Central Asia. We have understood the uselessness of fencing ourselves from Afghanistan; we stopped looking at it as a source of problems. We begin to realize that Afghanistan presents a unique opportunity for Central Asia to have the shortest access to sea ports and energy markets in South Asia.

Uzbekistan over the past year has significantly intensified its interaction with Kabul. Today, we are steadily increasing all-round cooperation with Afghanistan in the political, economic, trade, transport, energy, cultural and humanitarian spheres.

In 2017, the volume of trade increased by 15%, amounting to about 600 million dollars. In the near future, we intend to increase this figure several times and bring it up to 1.5 billion dollars.

We are supplying Afghanistan with building materials, food products, wheat, household appliances, motor vehicles, and etc.

Uzbekistan has also started implementing major infrastructure projects jointly with Afghanistan, which are potentially capable of not only helping to stabilize Afghanistan, but also give impetus to regional development in Central Asia.


Dear friends,


In conclusion, I have to say that today we are experiencing a truly historic moment in Central Asia. The most important thing is not to miss the chance to support the revival of regionalism in Central Asia, make Central Asia united, stable and prosperous.

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