Commentary

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Commentary

07.05.2024

Overview of the visit of Mongolia's President to Uzbekistan

The commentary was prepared by IAIS research intern Malika Khakimova under the supervision of Fazliddin Djamalov.   From June 23 to 26,2024 the President of Mongolia, Ukhnaagiin Khurelsukh, paid a state visit to Uzbekistan. The main agenda of the negotiations between the leaders of Mongolia and Uzbekistan focused on prospects for expanding multifaceted cooperation between the countries and intensifying political dialogue. During the visit, the two countries signed 14 intergovernmental documents, including agreements on trade and economic cooperation, air and road transportation, tourism, agriculture, science, and culture. Consequently, the following key trends aimed at intensifying relations between Uzbekistan and Mongolia can be highlighted: Strengthening Regional Cooperation. This visit underscores Mongolia's ambition to strengthen its position in Central Asia. Mongolia aims to move beyond its status as a "buffer zone" between China and Russia and position itself as part of Central Asia. Following its "third neighbor" policy, Mongolia is developing close political ties with other influential states to secure their support on the international stage. In this context, the European Union (EU) is an ideal "third neighbor"[1] for Mongolia, as it does not provoke strategic concerns in Beijing or Moscow. Experts note that Mongolia's desire to associate itself with Central Asia is linked to the EU's active cooperation with the region. The European Union shows significant interest in Central Asia due to its strategic geographic location, vast energy resources, considerable market potential, and role in ensuring regional security. From 2014 to 2020, the total amount of EU assistance to Central Asian countries was €1.1 billion, and for the period 2021-2024, it is expected to be at least €390 million[2]. At the same time, EU investments in Mongolia for the period 2021-2024 amounted to €31 million[3]. Therefore, through regional integration into Central Asia, Mongolia hopes to strengthen its ties with the European Union. Diversification of Foreign Economic Relations. Both countries are diversifying their foreign economic relations to reduce dependence on traditional trading partners. Mongolia, situated between China and Russia, is seeking new opportunities for economic growth through cooperation with Uzbekistan. Mongolia specializes in the production and export of cashmere, wool, meat, meat products, and leather goods. Uzbekistan, in turn, offers vegetables and fruits, fertilizers, medicines, household appliances, plastic and rubber products, building materials, ready-made textiles, and footwear in exchange. In 2022, the trade turnover of food and agricultural products between the two countries amounted to about $5.5 million, with the majority of this sum coming from Uzbekistan's exports to Mongolia, which totaled $4.4 million[4]. In the coming years, mutual trade is expected to increase 5-10 times by expanding the range and volume of demanded products. Intensifying Diplomatic Contacts. The opening of the Mongolian embassy in Tashkent and Uzbekistan's plans to open its embassy in Ulaanbaatar demonstrate the countries' readiness for closer political interaction. To attract Mongolian youth to Uzbekistan, the government of the latter has expressed its willingness to allocate grant funds for the education of Mongolian students. In 2022, Mongolian and Uzbek agricultural universities already negotiated regarding student exchange programs[5]. During the visit, it was noted that it is also necessary to develop partnerships between research institutes, especially in the field of animal husbandry. Bolstering International Status. Mongolia was one of the first countries to support Uzbekistan's inclusion to the World Trade Organization (WTO). Uzbekistan's accession to the WTO could create favorable conditions for the development of bilateral trade between Mongolia and Uzbekistan. During recent negotiations, Uzbekistan and Mongolia have prepared an agreement on preferential trade and proposals for simplifying mutual market access[6]. This agreement will allow both countries to benefit from preferential tariffs and conditions, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of their products in international markets. For Mongolia, this will also open up new opportunities for exporting its goods and attracting investments. Developing Transport Infrastructure. The presidents signed agreements on air and road transport aimed at improving transportation infrastructure and logistics. This is particularly crucial for landlocked countries. Prior to the visit of the Mongolian president, the construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway was announced, with the parliament ratifying a six-year implementation agreement for the project[7]. Mongolia might be interested in joining this project, which would enable shorter and more economically viable transportation routes for its goods, as well as integration into a wider network of transportation corridors. Moreover, the project has the potential to connect to the Trans-Afghan corridor, offering Mongolia opportunities to export its agricultural and meat products to Afghanistan and South Asia. Participation in such a significant infrastructure project would also contribute to the formation of a unified Central Asian identity in Mongolia.   [1] EUCAM. (2012, July 4). Mongolia’s quest for third neighbors.. Why the European Union? Retrieved from https://eucentralasia.eu/mongolias-quest-for-third-neighbours-why-the-european-union-ru/ [2] European External Action Service. (2022, November 14). Josep Borrell: We are actively working on building a stronger, broader, and modern partnership with five Central Asian countries. [3]  European Commission. (n.d.). Mongolia. Retrieved from https://international-partnerships.ec.europa.eu/countries/mongolia_en   [4] Panfilova, V. (2024, June 23). Mongolia seeks access to the sea through Uzbekistan. Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Retrieved from https://www.ng.ru/cis/2024-06-23/8_9033_sea.html [5] Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Uzbekistan. (2022, August 27). Student exchange was established between agricultural universities of Mongolia and Uzbekistan. Retrieved from https://www.agro.uz/ru/11-0395/   [6] Kun.uz. (2024, June 24). Uzbekistan and Mongolia to prepare an agreement on preferential trade. Retrieved from https://kun.uz/ru/news/2024/06/24/uzbekistan-i-mongoliya-podgotovyat-soglasheniye-o-preferensialnoy-torgovle [7] Hwan, E. (2024, June 20). Kyrgyzstan: Railway from China to reduce dependency on Russia. Deutsche Welle. Retrieved from https://www.dw.com/ru/kyrgyzstan-zeleznaa-doroga-iz-kitaa-snizit-zavisimost-ot-rossii/a-69430517

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Commentary

07.04.2024

Doha Meeting: Is the International Community on the Verge of Recognizing the Taliban?

The UN and other international organisations find themselves in a difficult situation where the need for dialogue with the authorities of Afghanistan conflicts with the rejection of their policies regarding human rights. Despite this, since May of last year, we have witnessed a series of attempts to establish a dialogue with the government of Afghanistan. On May 1-2, 2023, a meeting on Afghanistan was convened in Qatar by Antonio Guterres. Special envoys for Afghanistan from various countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, participated. Although the agenda was dedicated to Afghan issues, the invitation did not extend to the representatives of the Taliban due to the international community's non-recognition of the Taliban government as legitimate and the clear requirements they must meet. However, in February 2024, the Second Doha Meeting on Afghanistan took place, where representatives of both the Taliban and the official opposition to their government were invited. Despite the Taliban government's refusal to participate in the meeting, this dynamic clearly shows changes in the approaches of the international community, particularly the UN, towards the Taliban and a readiness to bring them to the negotiating table. This is also confirmed by the UN's DiCarlo, who stated that the main goal of the third Doha meeting on Afghanistan is the "normalization" of relations between the Taliban and the international community. This position was confirmed in the latest meeting on Afghanistan in Doha, which started on June 30th this year. This time, we not only observed the invitation and participation of the Taliban in the negotiations but also the fulfillment of their conditions to exclude Afghan women and activists from participating in the meetings. This appears paradoxical since the UN Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo, who oversees this event, stated the goal is to create an Afghanistan that "is at peace with itself and its neighbors, fully integrated into the international community, and fulfilling its obligations, including in the area of human rights, especially those of women and girls." The events around organising “Doha meeting” this particular time possibly indicate that the international community’s approach towards Taliban seems to be undergoing shifts as official interaction with the Taliban has reached to a new legitimate level. Moreover, meetings of the Taliban with countries discussing issues of cooperation and strengthening interaction indicate that countries have already established strong ties in areas such as trade relations, infrastructure projects, and plans to expand the mining sector. This also applies to the countries of Central Asia. Perhaps, these countries have to develop a common legal framework for cooperation with Taliban government. As practice shows, the Taliban's integration into the region is growing, and there might soon be a need for legal regulation of certain issues. Today, we see the Taliban actively engaging in regional processes, driven by the need to improve and stabilize Afghanistan's internal situation. As a result, it is safe to assume that this process could necessitate a revision of Central Asian countries’ policies regarding Afghanistan.