President Ashraf Ghani’s special envoy for Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Shakir Kargar on Monday said that Afghanistan and Uzbekistan have agreed to expand economic, trade, transit and commercial relations, adding that Uzbek leaders have also pledged to support the Afghan government in its struggle against terrorism and insurgency.
Kargar made the remarks during a signing ceremony of at least four agreements between the two nations in Tashkent.
The agreements are aimed at enhancing bilateral relations between the two neighbors in some key areas including expansion of relations in the technical and agriculture sectors, the railway and energy transit sectors and in the expansion of ties between the private sector of the two countries. In addition an agreement was signed on the purchasing of almost 100,000 tons of wheat from Uzbekistan by Afghanistan.
Uzbekistan has also agreed to process Afghanistan’s crude oil at its refineries, he said.
Kargar noted that the two countries have also pledged to launch direct flights between their capitals and extend cooperation in the transport sector.
Uzbekistan has also promised to issue long term visas to Afghan businessmen.
“The Republic of Uzbekistan has reaffirmed its support on the war against terrorism and drugs. Uzbekistan also offered to host peace negotiation talks between the legal government of Afghanistan and the Taliban,” said Kargar.
Officials from the two countries have expressed optimism that an agreement on transit and commercial ties will soon be finalized.
“An agreement on technical and agricultural cooperation and sharing of expertise will be signed soon,” said Minister of Agriculture Assadullah Zamir.
“The countries have a huge capacity of trade; Uzbekistan produces more than a 1,000 products, but only a few of them can be found on our local market. If the current commitments are implemented, this makes us optimistic,” said Atiqullah Nusrat, head of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI).
Meanwhile, officials of the Uzbek ministry of foreign affairs have said that Uzbekistan will soon open a business office in Kabul aimed at resolving issues facing the business community of the two countries.
“We will continue our cooperation with your country (Afghanistan) and look to expand bilateral cooperation between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan so that new windows of opportunities are opened in commercial, transit and investment sectors,” said Erkin Jan Yunusove, head of the economic and investment affairs department of Uzbekistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Currently the balance of trade between Uzbekistan and Afghanistan is estimated at around $350 million USD.
However, officials from the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) raised hopes that the two countries will increase this figure to around $1 billion USD by the end of next year.