Energy is priority, leaders agree
Updated: 2013-09-10 01:31
By Wu Jiao in Tashkent and Li Xiaokun in Beijing (China Daily)
Uzbekistan, China deepen strategic ties in free trade, oil, anti-terrorism
China and Uzbekistan pledged on Monday to deepen cooperation on energy and anti-terrorism, as President Xi Jinping continued his first visit to China's important Central Asian partner.
President Xi Jinping and his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov inspect ceremonial guards of honor before their talks in Tashkent on Monday. Xi is on his first tour of Central Asia since he took office in March. [ding lin / Xinhua]
Diplomats said the two nations' relations, which have seen "explosive" growth since they established a strategic partnership in 2012, are based on the deep trust between the nations, and especially the leaders, which began two decades ago.
In a joint declaration after talks with Uzbek President Islam Karimov, the two nations vowed to expand energy cooperation, including in oil, natural gas, natural uranium exploration and renewable sources. A gas pipeline already links the two countries.
"Energy is the priority of bilateral cooperation," Karimov said in the meeting, according to a news release issued by the Foreign Ministry.
The two countries also announced they will strengthen cooperation in combating terrorism, separatism and extremism, called "the three evil forces" in China.
The two sides also promised to further help each other safeguard large international activities held by each other.
Zhang Xiao, the Chinese ambassador to Uzbekistan, said ahead of the visit that the two countries have effectively cooperated to fight the "three evil forces" and ensure security at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and 2010 Shanghai Expo.
The two countries, both of which border Afghanistan, also said in the declaration that they have "all along paid great attention to the situation in Afghanistan and its future".
"The two nations ... object to outside forces interfering in any way in the domestic affairs of Central Asian countries and undermining stability" in the region, the joint declaration said.
The two presidents said at their meeting that the two nations support the peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction process in Afghanistan.
Xi also suggested the two nations start negotiations on their free trade area at an early date.
"High-level mutual trust is the unique advantage of China-Uzbekistan relations," Xi said.
He said that Uzbekistan, "located in the center of geopolitics in Central Asia", has been linked to China by the Silk Road since ancient times.
Karimov told Xi on Monday that China has been sincere in assisting with Uzbekistan's development, "never exerting pressure on Uzbekistan and never attaching political conditions". Facts have proved that China is a "great neighbor and trustworthy partner", he said.
The state heads also signed a treaty of friendly cooperation to form principles and the direction of development of bilateral ties.
They also witnessed the signing of cooperation documents in sectors like trade, energy and investment.
Xi told reporters after the signing ceremony that the two nations will be "comprehensive strategic partners for generations".
Zhang Xiao, the ambassador, said frequent high-level visits between the two nations in recent years reflect their intimacy.
Then-president Hu Jintao visited Uzbekistan in 2010, while Karimov visited China in 2011 and 2012.
According to official figures, two-way trade volume reached $2.88 billion in 2012, a year-on-year surge of 32.8 percent. That made China Uzbekistan's second-largest trading partner.
Again, trade in the first seven months this year reached $2.54 billion, 60 percent higher than the corresponding period of the last year. The two presidents on Monday set the expected trade volume in 2017 at $5 billion.
Gao Yusheng, former Chinese ambassador to Uzbekistan, said Karimov visited China in 1992, right after his country attained independence. The trip made him the first state head of a former Soviet republic to visit China.
"That laid a good foundation for bilateral ties," Gao said.
Though this is the first time Xi has visited the Central Asian country, Gao said Xi has met Karimov many times before and established "close personal relations".
Gao said an important feature of the ties is the "deep mutual trust between the two nations, and especially the leaders".
That has guaranteed the smooth development of the ties and enabled the two sides to have "in-depth communication and reach in-depth consensus" on issues of common concern, he said. Their efficient cooperation on fighting the three evil forces is a testimony to that, he said.