Earlier this year, Israel and Uzbekistan celebrated the 30th anniversary of diplomatic relations. The two nations have recently accelerated discussions regarding their bilateral cooperation in politics, diplomacy, economy and culture as they continue to explore new opportunities for collaboration.
In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to Israel Ms. Feruza Makhmudova expressed her country’s interest in picking up the momentum between Uzbekistan and Israel. This year, the first meeting of an intergovernmental commission is expected to take place, headed by Uzbekistan’s Deputy Prime Minister Sardor Umurzakov and Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov. The ambassador explained that several projects in different fields including agriculture, environment, labor migration and tourism are already underway.
Makhmudova added that since February 2018, Israelis have been able to visit Uzbekistan without a visa for up to 30 days.
“Tourism is one of the key points in our bilateral agenda, taking into account solid potential for tourism attractions for both sides,” she said. Recently, several tourist companies from Uzbekistan took part in the 28th International Mediterranean Tourism Market held in Israel, highlighting both countries’ interest in the tourism field.
As well, Makhmudova noted that the upcoming establishment of an Israel-Uzbekistan Chamber of Commerce will be “an important, special step in bringing the countries’ business communities closer together.”
Uzbekistan is actively advancing its business dialogues with international partners, including those in Israel: the first Tashkent International Investment forum took place on March 24-26, wherein Israeli investors met with their Uzbekistani counterparts in order to discuss their futures in business.
The emphasis on finding opportunities for Uzbek-Israel cooperation was also emphasized by Uzbekistan’s Development Strategy Center Director Eldor Tulyakov. “There are more opportunities for Uzbekistan to establish cooperation with the rest of the world, including partners in Israel,” he said.
One of the reasons that the countries’ collaborative efforts haven’t flourished more freely, Tulyakov explained, is purely due to location.
“Now we have very good relations, but that trade partnership is not yet at a high level because Uzbekistan is a landlocked country,” he said. The need to route shipments through either Russia or Kazakhstan has limited Uzbekistan’s ability to trade freely with Israel.
Tulyakov noted that Israel’s work in medical technology has been a serious topic of interest in Uzbekistan.
“We know very well that the medical sphere and the health sector are very well-developed in Israel,” he said. “Uzbekistan has been paying close attention in order to strengthen the health of its population.”
He also cited Israel as a strong partner in education, specifically calling attention to Israeli exchange programs, which have attracted and educated many Uzbek people in Israel.
“This has been quite popular, [especially] now that there is more demand for hiring professionals in Uzbekistan in our energy and agriculture sectors. We need more talented people to plant less and get more,” said Tulyakov.
In regard to agriculture, Israel has also given crucial aid to Uzbekistan by means of experience. Uzbekistan is working to reinvigorate its agricultural infrastructure, and is pulling on Israeli know-how to accomplish that task.
“One of the challenges in Uzbekistan is the soil,” said Uzbekistan’s Deputy Agriculture Minister Alisher Turaev. He explained that a fundamental aspect of agricultural success in Uzbekistan is to increase the quality of its soil – something that Israel has been working on for many years.
Going hand-in-hand with soil quality is the issue of water.
“Water is the main challenge for all human beings,” said Turaev, who noted that Uzbekistan’s geographical circumstances don’t preclude it from having enough water, contrary to common thought.
“We have enough water,” he said, “but the water should be distributed in the right way, and it should be correctly saved. We have to learn how to save water, so again we refer to Israeli experience.”
Turaev explained that Israel’s knowledge is also applicable to plant breeding, protection and fertilization.
“The whole chain, from soil to fertilization, sees the need for Israeli knowledge, design and technologies,” he said.