President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan will visit Uzbekistan and South Korea at the invitation of the two countries’ presidents Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Moon Jae-in, during his eastern tour. In the course of his official visit to Tashkent on April 29-May 1, the Turkish leader is expected to take steps necessary to promote the bilateral relations. A business forum of the two countries businesspersons will be held during the visit as well as agreements for over $1 billion will be signed.
On May 1, Erdogan will travel to Bukhara, an ancient city of Turkish-Islamic civilization. Political analyst Sherzod Kudratkhojayev told EADaily “the visit is expected to be open and warm, as Turkey and Uzbekistan have the same ethnic roots.” “In the 12th century, Seljuks from Central Asia settled in the Anatolian peninsula. So many centuries later, there is still language, cultural and religious commonness. The language, values and traditions are very similar. Turks still call Uzbekistan ‘Ota yurt’ - ‘Fatherland’,” the expert says.
According to him, Uzbekistan is home to the great Islamic theologians and Islamic cultural monuments. Therefore, pilgrimage tourism is very important. Turkish citizens show a high interest in sacred places, for instance, mausoleums of Imam al-Bukhari, Abu Mansur Moturudiy and Bakhouddin Naqshbandi. During his visit, the Turkish leader is expected to travel to these holy places as well.
President Mirziyoyev’s decision to introduce visa-free travel for Turkish citizens was another effort to boost the bilateral cooperation. In March alone, almost 6,000 Turks travelled to Uzbekistan, which exceeds last year’s indicator manifold. Turks feel themselves comfortable in Uzbekistan like they do on Bosporus. These are not just loud statements, we are really very close,” Kudratkhojayev said adding that the greatest number of travelers to Uzbekistan is from Turkey.
2017 became crucial for enhancement of relations between Uzbekistan and Turkey. Most of the agreements achieved by the two leaders in November 2016 were implemented. The Uzbek-Turkish relations have not been just restored; the bilateral cooperation in a number of sectors has been significantly improved. High-level contacts, meetings of various ministries and departments, business circles, parliamentarians have intensified. It is should be recalled that in October 2017, the Uzbek leader travelled to Turkey for the first time in 18 years.
Erdogan’s upcoming visit will be a return visit. The Turkish leader will be accompanied by 200 representatives of big and mid-sized businesses to attend a large-scale business forum. The sides are expected to sign over 20 important documents, mostly interstate, intergovernmental and interdepartmental ones, as well as a joint statement.
“A document is being prepared now to set up a High Level Strategic Cooperation Council chaired by the two presidents and aimed at institutionalization of strategic partnership mechanisms. Turkey has such councils with 5 countries only: Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine,” the expert said. In his words, the economic component of the visit will be agreements for over $1 billion. New opportunities of cooperation emerge in the mining and defense industry sectors.
“Reforms of President Mirziyoyev to liberalize economic and create favorable conditions for doing business are giving first fruits. In Q1 of this year, the number of foreign enterprises with Turkish capital reached 550. It is anticipated that foreign trade for 2018 will total about $2 billion,” the political analyst said.
Alexander Vorobyev, Russian expert, research fellow at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, believes that Turkish President Erdogan’s upcoming visit is important for the two sides. It fits into Tashkent’s economic pragmatism, efforts to raise investments and boost foreign trade relations with other countries. Turkey has a solid industrial capacity, financial resources, rich experience of doing business in many sectors, such as, for instance, chemical industry, tourist sector and can offer much to Tashkent,” Vorobyev said to EADaily.
He believes that there are no evident factors marring relations of Tashkent and Ankara. Many unsettled issues were resolved during Erdogan’s visit to Tashkent in October 2017. Turkey is the fourth largest trade partner of Uzbekistan and intensity of the two countries trade and economic ties pushes the sides towards new talks to boost their economic relations.
For Turkey relations with Uzbekistan are important as well. This is not only about economy. Ankara like Moscow, Beijing, Brussels is well aware of Tashkent’s capacities of the regional leader and driving force of Central Asia. For Turkish leadership that cares for its leading position and special role in the Turkic world, the humanitarian aspect of the bilateral relations is important as well.
EADaily’s Central Asian Bureau