Lord David Cameron, UK’s secretary of state for goreign, Commonwealth and development affairs, paid a one-day visit to Uzbekistan on 23 April as part of a tour to all five countries in Central Asia and Mongolia. He became the first British foreign secretary to visit Uzbekistan in the past 27 years.

Prior to his visit to Tashkent, in his op-ed for Gazeta.uz, the former British prime minister outlined priority areas that are expected to raise bilateral cooperation to a new level. These include expansion of cooperation in economic development and education, as well as strengthening the independence of countries in the region.

These topics were the focus of talks between David Cameron and the foreign minister of Uzbekistan Bakhtiyor Saidov. Following the negotiations, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) focusing on regional and international connectivity, and infrastructure, and the Declaration on Comprehensive Cooperation, covering increased cooperation in the areas of counter-terrorism, defense, climate change, and human rights were signed.

Photo: British embassy.Photo: British embassy.

Key points of signed documents

“The Joint Declaration sets out the vision of both nations to build more dynamic connections between people; increase trade and investment flows; enhance political, security and defence cooperation and engage on key issues such as climate, clean energy, sustainable socio-economic development, gender equality and decarbonisation ambitions,” the British embassy’s press service said in a statement shared with Gazeta.uz.

The MoU seeks to expand economic and industrial cooperation through support to the development of sustainable infrastructure projects in Uzbekistan.

The document pays particular attention to new high-speed rail projects in Uzbekistan and areas where the UK can support, including through the utilization of the UK Export Finance assistance. A joint working group will be formed to agree further detailed plans for cooperation with key government and business stakeholders from the UK and Uzbekistan.

The proposal to form a UK-Uzbekistan Joint Economic Commission underlines shared commitment to expanding bilateral trade and investment ties, the embassy said. The commission will provide a new platform for government-to-government dialogue on economic cooperation and support to British and Uzbek businesses.

The existing Uzbek-British Trade and Industry Council, which held its 27th annual meeting last year, will also continue to provide a business-to-business platform to support the £472 million bilateral trade relationship, which grew 132.5% last year compared to the previous year.

David Cameron announced an increase of development funding in the region, which is set to increase by £50 million over the next three years, in addition to Official Development Assistance funds the UK delivers through core contributions to multilateral organizations.

The British foreign secretary announced the launch of a new program on Education and English language, including doubling of Chevening scholarships for Central Asia; Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) development program focusing on green investment; and a dedicated program to tackle climate change, focusing on clean energy and water security.

In Tashkent, David Cameron also held meetings with the Senate chairperson Tanzila Narbaeva and vice prime minister Jamshid Kuchkarov. They discussed the reform process, interparliamentary links, expanding trade and investment, and education cooperation.

Photo: Senate press service.Photo: Senate press service.

Photo: British embassy.Photo: British embassy.

Cultural part of the visit

The cultural part of David Cameron’s visit involved a tour of the Hazrati Imam complex, and an introduction to the national cuisine at the Caravan restaurant.

Photo: British embassy.Photo: British embassy.

Photo: British embassy.Photo: British embassy.

David Cameron participated in the preparation of plov, the most famous national dish, and jokingly asked the cook if he could be hired now.

Photo: Evgeny Sorochin / Gazeta.uz.Photo: Evgeny Sorochin / Gazeta.uz.

The foreign secretary also met graduates of British universities who were alumni of the Chevening scholarship program.

Photo: Evgeny Sorochin / Gazeta.uz.Photo: Evgeny Sorochin / Gazeta.uz.