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COUNTRY PROFILES


PROFILE

Country Profile

Area: 448,971 sq km (Uzbek Central Election Committee, 2009)
Population: 27.5m (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2010)
Capital City: Tashkent (population: 2,400,000)
People: 80% Uzbek, 5.5% Russian, 5% Tajik, 3% Kazakh, 2.5 Karakalpak, 1,5% Tatars, 2.5 other (Uzbek Central Election Committee, 2009)
Languages: Uzbek/Russian/Tajik
Religion(s): Sunni Muslim (88%), Eastern Orthodox (9%), other (3%)
Currency: Som
Government: Republic
President: Islam Karimov
Prime Minister: Shavkat Mirziyoyev
Foreign Minister: Vladimir Norov
Economic Information: (see below)
Membership of international groupings/organisations: Asian Development Bank, Conference of Interaction Confidence building measures in Asia, CIS, Collective Security Treaty Organisation, EAEC (suspended), Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Economic Community Organisation, Food and Agriculture Organisation, International Atomic Energy Agency, Intentional Bank for Reconstruction and Development, International Civil Aviation Organisation, International Criminal Court (signatory), International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, International Development Association, Islamic Development Bank, International Finance Corporation, International Labour Organisation, International Monetary Fund, Interpol, IOC, International Standardisation Organisation, International Telecoms Satellites Organisation, International Telecommunication Union, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency, Nonaligned Movement, Organisation of the Islamic Conference, Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, OSCE, Partnership For Peace, SCO, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UNWTO, UPU, World Customs Organisation, World Federation of Trade Unions, WHO, World Intellectual Property Organisation, World Meteorological Organisation, World Trade Organisation (observer)
Uzbekistan has also acceded to the Non Proliferation Treaty.
Membership of regional organisations: Uzbekistan was an active member of the GUUAM alliance (Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova) from 1999 until 2002 when it suspended its membership. It formally left the organisation in 2005. Uzbekistan joined the Shanghai Co-operation Organisation in 2001 (along with Russia, China, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan). In 2002, Uzbekistan joined the new Central Asia Co-operation Organisation, along with Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan. In 2006 Uzbekistan joined the EURASEC organisation (but suspended its membership in 2008) and resumed co-operation with the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). Uzbekistan has had a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) with the EU since 1 July 1999. EU Foreign Ministers decided on a partial suspension of the PCA in October 2005 following the events in Andizhan of 13 May 2005. EU sanctions imposed after the Andizhan events were lifted in October 2009.

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ECONOMY

Basic Economic Facts

GDP: US$ 30.68bn (CIA World Factbook, 2010)
GNI per head: US$1,100 (World Bank estimate for 2009)
Annual GDP Growth: 8.5% (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2010)
Inflation: 7.6%, (Economist Intelligence Unit, 2010)
Major Industries: Gold, copper, zinc, lead, tungsten, uranium, molybdenum, natural gas reserves, coal and oil production, hydroelectric power.
Major trading partners: Russia, China, Kazakhstan, South Korea, Turkey, Bangladesh, Ukraine
Foreign direct investment: US$ 225.9m (first 9 months 2009, Ministry for Foreign Economic Relations, Investment and Trade of Uzbekistan estimate)

Uzbekistan has substantial natural resources, including gas, oil, gold and silver. Agriculture is also important: Uzbekistan is the world's 3rd largest exporter of cotton. In the absence of substantive economic reform, the strength of the Uzbek economy is largely dependent on gold and cotton prices. Uzbekistan introduced currency convertibility and signed up to Article 8 of the IMF Charter in 15 October 2003, but in April 2004, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development curbed its investment programme due to lack of progress by Uzbekistan on political and economic benchmarks set by the Bank. In recent years the Government has sought foreign investment in its hydrocarbon sector from companies from Russia and Asia.

There are few reliable statistics on the Uzbek economy.

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HISTORY

Recent History

The Republic of Uzbekistan is the heir to the Uzbek SSR, created in 1924 as part of the Soviet Union. The Uzbek Supreme Soviet declared the republic's independence on 1 September 1991. This was endorsed in a popular referendum on 29 December 1991, in which the former First Secretary of the Communist Party, Islam Karimov, was also confirmed as President with 86% of the vote.

Placing stability above all else, and fearing an Islamic revival, Karimov has limited real democratic development. Genuine opposition parties are not tolerated. The main dissident movements were Birlik ('Unity') which has not been allowed to register and Erk ('Will') which lost its official registration in 1993, although these movements are now largely inactive. The Islamic Renaissance Party of Uzbekistan was banned in 1990.

The region’s main terrorist organisation, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), made armed raids into Uzbekistan in 1999 and 2000 from bases in neighbouring Tajikistan. IMU fighters have received training in Afghanistan (to where many were deported in 2001) and have received support from Osama Bin Laden's terrorist networks. IMU forces were significantly affected by coalition attacks on Afghanistan in late 2001, although unconfirmed reports put their estimated number at up to 5000. The IMU do not command significant political support in Uzbekistan. The radical Islamist organisation Hizb-ut-Tahrir is active throughout Central Asia, including Uzbekistan. It has a radical and utopian agenda and its published materials often employ inflammatory language.

On 16 February 1999, a series of bombs exploded in Tashkent, killing 13 people and wounding 128 others. The Uzbek Government blamed Islamic extremists and arrested people they claim were trained in neighbouring countries. In 2004, Uzbekistan faced two separate terrorist incidents. In late March, a series of shootings, explosions, and apparent suicide bombings in Tashkent and Bukhara regions left dozens dead, and co-ordinated suicide bombings in late July near the US and Israeli Embassies and in the Prosecutor General’s Office in Tashkent killed four and injured at least seven. Islamic extremists were blamed.

In May 2009 there was an armed attack on a police checkpoint near Khanabad, immediately followed by a suicide bomb in Andizhan, killing a policeman. The Uzbek Government blamed extremists entering from neighbouring Kyrgyzstan.

Over the summer of 2009 the Deputy Head of Kulkadesh madrassa and the Deputy Head of the Ministry of Interior’s Counter Terrorism Department were murdered, and the Chief Imam of Tashkent attacked. Following these incidents 2-3 militants were killed in a shootout with Uzbek security forces in Tashkent. The Uzbek Government linked these incidents to one group of extremists.

In February 2010 the car of Akmal Abdullayev, the Uzbek Prime Minister's nephew and head of Djizzak region's Baxmal District government, was caught in an explosion in Tashkent. The Uzbek security services dismissed reports that this incident was a terrorist attack.

Uzbekistan’s Muslim population has a secular and moderate tradition - but there is a danger that growing poverty, unemployment, combined with restrictions on political and religious freedom, could drive elements of the population towards extremism and terrorism.

On the night of 12 May 2005, a group of armed men stormed a prison in Andizhan killing guards, taking hostages and releasing prisoners. They took more hostages in the administrative building in the main square and called civilians to support them. Civilians gathered and waited, expecting the President to appear. But according to credible eyewitness reports, Uzbek soldiers eventually fired on the demonstrators, killing hundreds, including women and children. The Uzbek authorities stated that this was a terrorist operation in which 187 had died, mostly terrorists, who were responsible for all civilian deaths. The international media including the BBC reported the events based on eyewitness accounts in the immediate aftermath of Andizhan. The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) produced a report on events in June 2005 available at: OSCE ODIHR Report, Uzbekistan (http://www.osce.org/documents/odihr/2005/06/15233_en.pdf)

The OSCE’s Representative on the Freedom of the Media issued a report on the media situation in the immediate aftermath of Andizhan, available at: OSCE Freedom of the Media Report, Uzbekistan (http://www.osce.org/documents/)

Longer Historical Perspective

The first people known to have lived in Uzbekistan were nomads, who spoke a Persian dialect. At this time, cities such as Bukhara and Samarkand began to appear as centres of government and culture. By the fifth century B.C. the Bactrian, Soghdian, and Tokharian states dominated the region. As China began to develop its silk trade with the West, Persian traders took advantage of this commerce. They used an extensive network of cities and settlements in the province of Mawarannahr (or 'beyond the river' - a name given to the region after the Arab conquest) in Uzbekistan and farther east in what is today China's Xinjiang Region. The Soghdian intermediaries became the wealthiest of these merchants. Because of this trade, the cities on what became known as the Silk Route, eventually became extremely wealthy. Mawarannahr was one of the most influential and powerful Persian provinces. The region also was an important centre of intellectual life and religion. Until the first centuries, the dominant religions in the region were Zoroastrianism, Buddhism and Manichaeism.

In the early fourteenth century, tribal groups competed for influence. One tribal chieftain, Timur (Tamerlane), emerged from these struggles in the 1380s and proceeded to conquer all of western Central Asia, Iran, Asia Minor, and the southern steppe region north of the Aral Sea. He also invaded part of Russia before dying during an attempt to invade China in 1405. Timur initiated a flowering of Uzbek culture by gathering artisans and scholars in his capital, Samarkand. During Timur's reign and the reigns of his descendants, a range of religious and palatial construction projects were undertaken. Timur also patronised scholars and artists; his grandson Ulugh Beg was one of the world's first great astronomers. It was during the Timurid dynasty that Turkic, in the form of the Chaghatai dialect, became a literary language in its own right - although the Timurids also wrote in Persian. Until then only Persian had been used in the region. The greatest Chaghataid writer, Ali Shir Nava'i, was active in the city of Herat, now in Afghanistan, in the second half of the fifteenth century. The Timurid state quickly broke into two halves after the death of Timur. The chronic internal fighting of the Timurids attracted the attention of the Uzbek nomadic tribes living to the north of the Aral Sea. In 1501 the Uzbeks began a wholesale invasion.

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INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS

Uzbekistan's Relations with Neighbours

The perceived threat of Islamic fundamentalism in neighbouring Afghanistan, Tajikistan and increasingly Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, where there are significant Uzbek minorities, has been a focus of Uzbek foreign policy. Relations have been strained with immediate neighbours, particular with respect to regulation of cross-border trade, movement and water and energy flows. Areas bordering Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan are mined. Uzbekistan has expressed a wish to de-mine, but has requested international assistance. This is complicated by the fact that Uzbekistan has not signed the Ottawa Convention, a treaty banning all types of anti-personnel mine.

In November 2005 Uzbekistan and Russia signed a treaty on allied relations. This was followed in June 2006 by the announcement that Uzbekistan would resume active participation in the Russian-led CIS Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO). (Uzbekistan had suspended co-operation with the CTSO in 1999.) In 2006 Uzbekistan also joined EURASEC, an organisation that aims for closer economic co-operation between the Russia, Belarus and the five Central Asian states, but suspended its membership in 2008. In early 2009 Uzbekistan also refused to take part in the Russian initiative to create a rapid reaction force within the CSTO.

Uzbekistan's Relations with the International Community

Uzbekistan's relations with the EU were strained by the events in Andizhan of 12-13 May 2005.

The EU General Affairs Council discussed the events in Andizhan in May, June and July 2005, calling on Uzbekistan to co-operate with the international community and permit an enquiry. As the Uzbek authorities remained intransigent, the EU General Affairs Council returned to the subject of Uzbekistan on 3 October. Chaired by then Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Jack Straw, the Council adopted Conclusions which condemned the refusal to allow an independent international enquiry and called on the Uzbeks to discontinue the detention and harassment of those, including human rights defenders, journalists and others, who had questioned the authorities’ version of events. The Council imposed an arms embargo, a visa ban on ministers and officials directly responsible for the Andizhan events, suspended technical meetings under the EU-Uzbekistan Partnership and Co-operation Agreement and redirected assistance programmes to relieve poverty, and support human rights, democracy and civil society. Norway and Switzerland supported the EU action by adopting similar measures.

The Sanctions were lifted in October 2009.

In November 2007 the EU also lifted the ban on technical meetings under the Partnership and Co-operation Agreement, to encourage respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Uzbekistan, through dialogue.

In January 2011 President Karimov met European Commission President José Manuel Barroso during a visit to Brussels. President Barroso raised human rights issues during the meeting, including the release of political prisoners and the ability of Human Rights Watch and the International Labour Organisation to carry out their work in Uzbekistan. An agreement to open a full EU Delegation office in Uzbekistan was signed during the visit, and we hope it will open in Tashkent by the end of this year.

In July 2006 the Uzbek authorities insisted the OSCE Mission in Tashkent be changed to a Project Co-ordinator's Office (PCO). The PCO mandate was reviewed at the end of 2006 and has been functioning in Tashkent since then.

In August 2005 Uzbekistan asked the US to leave its military base in Uzbekistan. The US forces left the base in November.

Uzbekistan's Relations with the UK

The UK recognised Uzbekistan as an independent state on 31 December 1991. Diplomatic relations were established in late 1992. A British Embassy in Tashkent opened in May 1993. The current Ambassador, Rupert Joy, has been in Uzbekistan since 2009. The first Uzbek Ambassador to the UK arrived in May 1997.

Cultural Relations with the UK

The British Council (BC) has an office in Tashkent (which also covers Tajikistan and Turkmenistan). The UK offers a limited number of scholarships through the Chevening scheme. In 2002, the BC helped Westminster University open a British-Uzbek University in Tashkent.

Recent Visits

Inward

President Karimov had a short stop-over in September 2010. He was met by Viscount Waverley, Chair of All Parliamentary Party Group on Central Asia, and Hartley Booth, co-Chair of the Uzbek-British Trade and Industry Council.
A senior Uzbek delegation visited the UK in December 2010 to discuss Habeas Corpus. They met with a number of officials.

The last Uzbek Minister to pay an official visit to the UK was Elyor Ganiev, Deputy Prime Minister, in 2009. During his visit Ganiev met the then Minister for Europe Chris Bryant.

Deputy Foreign Minister Anvar Salikhbaev visited London in November 2009 for political consultations.

Senator Sadik Safaev, Chairman of the Committee for Foreign Relations of the Uzbek Parliament, made an official visit to the UK in February 2010, where he met then Minister for Europe Chris Bryant.

Outward

The FCO’s Permanent Under-Secretary visited Uzbekistan in November 2010. He met Deputy Prime Minister Elyor Ganiev, Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee Sadik Safaev.

The 17th annual meeting of the Uzbek-British Trade and Industry Council (UBTIC) took place on 9 December in Tashkent. His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent took part in the UBTIC meeting.

The last FCO Minister to visit Uzbekistan was Malcolm Rifkind, as Foreign Secretary, in February 1997.

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GEOGRAPHY

Uzbekistan is a land-locked country surrounded by Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. The country can be divided into four regions: the Ustyurt Plateau as well as the delta of the lower Amu-Darya River; the Kyzyl Kum Desert east of the Aral Sea; the foothills of the Pamir-Alai Mountain/Tien Shan Range and the fertile oasis of the Fergana Valley. The principal rivers are the Amu-Darya, Syr-Darya and Zaravshan.

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TRADE AND INVESTMENT

UK Development Assistance

The UK Department for International Development ended its bilateral programme in Uzbekistan in November 2005. DFID will continue to support the Multilateral Institutions in their ongoing work in, and engagement with, Uzbekistan. For example, DFID is contributing to a regional HIV/AIDS programme with the World Bank, working in Uzbekistan as well as the Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan.

Trade and Investment with the UK

UK exports to Uzbekistan in 2010 totalled £55 million. Uzbek imports to the UK in 2010 totalled £38 million.

Major British companies active in Uzbekistan include: Rosehill Energy, BAT, OXUS Resources (gold mining) and PriceWaterhouseCoopers. Since 1 April 2005, there have been no official UKTI trade services in this market to help British companies who wish to export or invest there, except for lobbying in relation to UK companies’ commercial interests by the Head of Mission. However, in November 2010 the British Embassy in Tashkent established a Commercial Diplomacy Section to help develop business links between the UK and Uzbekistan.

The main forum for trade promotion is the Uzbek-British Trade and Industry Council (UBTIC).

The 17th annual meeting of the Uzbek-British Trade and Industry Council (UBTIC) took place on 9 December in Tashkent. His Royal Highness Prince Michael of Kent took part in the UBTIC meeting, accompanying the largest UK trade delegation ever to visit Uzbekistan. The Uzbek side was headed by the then Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Economic Relations, Investments and Trade Elyor Ganiev.

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POLITICS

Recent Political Developments

Uzbekistan is an authoritarian republic with powers concentrated in the hands of the president. There is little power outside the executive branch of government.

In January 2000, President Karimov won the Presidential election with a reported 91.9% of the vote from a reported turn-out of 95%. The OSCE's ODIHR made clear its reservations about the electoral process and did not, as a consequence, deploy even a limited mission, judging that conditions did not exist to hold a democratic election. A referendum in January 2002 extended the President's term to seven years. Karimov won a further seven-year term of office in the last Presidential elections in December 2007, in which he gained 88.1% of the vote.

The last parliamentary elections in Uzbekistan were held on 27 December 2009. In light of the lack of a genuinely pluralistic choice for voters and given the fact that most previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendations remained unaddressed, an Election Assessment Mission (EAM) was deployed, rather than an election observation mission. The final report of the EAM pointed to “substantial challenges which would need to be overcome in order to bring the electoral framework in line with OSCE commitments”.

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HUMAN RIGHTS

While some positive steps have been observed, serious concerns remain about the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. Uzbekistan remained a “Country of Concern” in the 2010 Annual Report on Human Rights produced by the FCO, full details of which can be found on the FCO website ( http://fcohrdreport.readandcomment.com/ (http://fcohrdreport.readandcomment.com/) )

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Last Updated: May 2011

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