President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday met with Uzbekistan’s visiting delegation, led bytheir foreign minister Abdulaziz Kamilov, and thanked officials for their cooperation with Afghanistan in a number of spheres.
Kamilov in turn assured Ghani that they would invest in economic projects in Afghanistan, the president’s office said in a statement.
The delegation included Jamshid Kuchkarov Uzbekistan’s minister of foreigneconomic relations, investment and trade; Ismatilla Igrashev, their special envoy for Afghanistan; Otabek Akbarov, the head of the department for cooperation with Middle and Near East countries of the ministry of foreign affairs; and Yadgar Shadmanov, Uzbekistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan.
At the meeting, Ghani welcomed the delegation and also “thanked Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev for regional consensus on development and holding of the Tashkent conference” on Afghanistan, the statement read.
Uzbekistan’s Kamilov said the aim of their trip to Afghanistan was to brief the Afghan president about progress achieved between the two nations, about boosting cooperation and finding ways to further increase ties between the two countries.
Kuchkarov said dozens of Afghans and Uzbeks have invested in both countries and his country is ready to further invest in Afghanistan’s infrastructure including thecement sector, the statement read.
“Efforts are ongoing to create opportunities in Termez for public and privateinvestment and also to address the issue of providing visas to Afghans,” he said.
He also said that “3,000 hectares of land has been put aside as a free trade zone close to Afghanistan’s border and that a commitment has been made to build arailway line between Mazar-e-Sharif and Herat which will cost about $500 million”.
“We want technical teams from both countries to start work on the railway project and our country will cooperate with Afghanistan over establishing six textile factories in the country and in this regard, we are completely ready,” he added.
Ghani in turn said that Afghanistan has the capacity to boost the transport and trade sector and said he would order government organizations to provide a list of goods that can be exported to Uzbekistan in order to keep a balance in trade between the two countries.
He also asked the visiting delegation to help establish five cement factories in the country and said that 10,000 hectares of land has been earmarked for the Mazar Industrial Park and preliminary work on the project has started.
“Termez (city in Uzbekistan on the Afghan border) is critical and will provide the opportunity for fruit and vegetables to be exported from Afghanistan to Kyrgyzstan and Russia and this city also has cold storage (facilities) to store Afghanistan’sproduce,” Ghani said.
Ghani also ordered Afghan officials to assign a team to visit Uzbekistan in order to solve issues between the two countries.
Kamilov meanwhile also met CEO Abdullah Abdullah and discussed bilateral relations, economic cooperation, trade, regional issues, and the Afghan peace process with him.
“A new chapter has been opened over relations of both countries,” Abdullah said at the meeting with Kamilov and thanked Uzbekistan for its efforts in helpingAfghanistan with its peace process.
At this meeting, Kamilov said his country is ready to help Afghanistan end the warand “play an active role in the peace process,” according to a statement issued by the CEO’s office.
Abdullah in turn welcomed Uzbekistan’s efforts in this regard.
The delegation’s visit comes just 10 days after Ghani’s advisor on Central Asian Affairs Shakir Kargar visited Uzbekistan.
Kargar met with high-ranking officials, and on his return confirmed Uzbekistan has established a transit hub at its border with Afghanistan in order to promote trade and transit ties.
Kargar said the development project established in Uzbekistan’s Termez city includes a railway line and station, a trade center for commercial goods and roads for transporting of goods.
Kargar said the establishment of such a transit hub in Uzbekistan holds long term benefits and will provide the opportunity for Afghanistan to expand its trade relations with Russia and China.
The Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) said recently that Afghanistan-Uzbekistan trade and transit ties have improved significantly.
ACCI statistics show that the trade value between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan last year was $600 million of which $200 million was Afghanistan’s exports to Uzbekistan.
Relations between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan have improved considerably in the past year – a year marked by sustained political dialogue and economic engagements.