|August 29-September 5, 1998|
Uzbek President to visit Baku for TRACECA project
A summit of 34 countries connected,
directly or indirectly, with the New Silk Road opened on September 8 in the Azeri capital
of Baku to launch the TRACECA (Transport Corridor Europe-Caucasia-Asia)
The purpose is to link landlocked Central Asia and the Caucasus with the ports
of southern Europe and Romania and Ukraine, providing these regions with
quicker and cheaper access to international markets, and augmenting their
political and economic independence.
Under the ornate ceilings of Baku's Gulustan palace the heads of states are
finalizing the text of four agreements to be adopted at the end of the conference
tomorrow, the chief of the conference's press center, Rustam Mammadov, told
The quartet of accords include a comprehensive agreement on international
transport with a technical supplement, two agreements on use of international
highways and railway transport, and a comprehensive accord on customs
Besides the host Azerbaijan, five Central Asian countries and Turkey, the 15
European Union countries, Norway, Poland, Japan, China, South Korea,
Bulgaria, Romania, Moldavia, Ukraine, Mongolia, Georgia, Armenia, the United
States, the United Nations and other international organizations are participating.
Azeri president Haidar Aliyev stressed the rising significance of the Caucasus
and Central Asia both as an East-West transport corridor and the source of vast
reserves of oil and natural gas.
"The further strengthening of relations and the deepening of cooperation will
bring political dividends," Aliyev told reporters in Baku today. "The main aim is
to ensure peace and stability and mutual understanding between states."
In a striking demonstration of the commercial attractiveness of the project,
Armenia is also taking part, despite the fact that Azerbaijan and Armenia are still
deadlocked over Armenia's armed seizure of Azerbaijan's enclave of
Nagorno-Karabakh. Around 35,000 died in the fighting, and the 1994 ceasefire
has so far failed to lead to a lasting settlement.
"The foundations of this project were laid in 1993 in Brussels with the
participation of representatives of the Caucasus and Central Asian countries,"
said Aliyev, quizzed on Armenia's participation. "Therefore, Armenia has the
right to take part in this project."
During a visit to London in July, Aliyev outlined the potential.
Four million tons of cargo -- which included Kazhakh oil and Uzbek cotton --
ferried along this route last year was four times the figure for 1996. The total for
the current year is expected to rise even more sharply.
TRACECA was first mooted at a European Union (EU) conference in Brussels
in May 1993 as a follow-up on the agreement to build a Trans-Caspian highway
and transport corridor by Georgia and Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and
The Brussels conference was attended by the transport and trade ministers of
eight countries, three from the Caucasus (Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia) and
five from Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kirgizstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and
Stress was laid on regional cooperation, absent in the past, and that these
countries should reduce their dependence on Moscow for trade routes to the
outside world. That meant opening new trade routes circumventing the old
Turkmenistan had already started by linking up the old Soviet rail network with
that of Iran, endowed with a long coastline in the Gulf and on the Arabian Sea.
The 1993 meeting came up with the idea of reviving the ancient 6,400-kilometer
"Silk Road" that connected the Europe of the Roman Empire with China.
The only nominal difference was that the New Silk Road was required to mesh
with existing networks coordinated by the 16- member Pan-European Transport
Conference. At subsequent annual meetings, membership of TRACECA was
extended to Ukraine, Moldova and Mongolia.
The TRACECA project is being undertaken at three different levels: local,
national and regional.
Working in conjunction with the European Bank for Reconstruction and
Development (EBRD) and the World Bank, the EU finances individual projects
to improve trade and transport.
These include works to upgrade Baku's seaport, highways in Turkmenistan, and
improving Armenia's road network. Also, to further TRACECA, the EU
cooperates with another regional body, the Black Sea Cooperation Council
(BSCC) -- formed in 1992 by the six countries surrounding the Black Sea --
The EU is also funding a plan to connect the Ukrainian Black Sea port of
Ilyichevak with the Georgian port of Poti by ferry, a project which will be
completed in 1999.
This dovetails with the overall plan to create a transport corridor that will link
Central Asia through the Caspian Sea with the Caucasian states, then through
the Black Sea to the ports in Ukraine and Romania as well in the Mediterranean.
The ultimate aim is to build an integrated network, consisting of roads, railways,
seaports, and ferry services.
"The significance of the TRACECA project is very great. This project has been
worked on for five years and is already yielding economic and political
dividends," Aliyev said today.
But it will in the next century that the TRACECA project will bear fruit.
However its sponsors have already touched a romantic nerve among Europeans
and Asians alike by comparing it to the legendary Silk Road, thus blending the
technological future with the leisurely past.
Russian crisis won't affect Uzbekistan
President Karimov gave a news-conference before his departure to Baku on September 7. In addition to speaking about his trip to the Azeri capital, the President also expressed his opinion about the financial crisis in Russia. He said that no particular Russian politician could be blamed for the turmoil. It is the system and the path of economic reform that were initially determined wrong. President Karimov said that the crisis in Russia in no way would affect Uzbekistan, because Uzbekistan imports only machinery and equipment and no food from Russia. He also said that the Russia should have fixed a floating rate of its ruble, like it is now in Uzbekistan where the limit would be 110 soums per dollar by the end of this year. President Karimov also announced that Uzbekistan would sign the Article 8 of the International Monetary Fund by the year 2000 which obliges a country to guarantee current and then full convertability of its currency. So the Uzbek soum is going to be fully convertable by the year 2000.
President Karimov to visit Israel
Uzbek President Islam Karimov will visit Israel September 14-16 to meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and promote commercial ties. Karimov is expected to sign a number of bilateral agreements, including deals on taxes, trade and cooperation in public health and agriculture. The official visit was agreed to in May when Netanyahu made a brief stop-over in Tashkent on his way home from China. Some 120,000 of the 145,000 Jews living in Uzbekistan at the end of Soviet rule have left the predominantly Muslim Central Asian country of 23 million. Of these 70,000 emigrated to Israel. Trade between the two countries last year was tiny at only 20 million dollars.
Javier Solana to visit Uzbekistan
President's Cup to start on Saturday
Tashkent will host a large international tennis tournament beginning September 12. The President's Cup will be held for the fifth time in Uzbekistan since 1994 and for the second time it will be held as a part of the ATP-Tour. Around forty players have been invited to take part in this competition. Last year's winner Tim Henman of Great Britain is seeded second. He will visit Tashkent again. Swiss Marc Rosset, Russian stars Evgeniy Kafelnikov and Marat Safin, French Cedric Pioline and legendary Boris Becker will also visit Tashkent to compete for a 66,400 dollar-first-prize and 170 ATP points. The runner-up will receive 39,000 dollars of the half a million-dollar prize money.
Tennis became popular in Uzbekistan due to President Islam Karimov's great interest in and concern over sports in Uzbekistan. He says that in order to make any kind of sport popular in the country, government officials should be the ones to start playing first and to help sports develop. This brought about a new tennis tournament called "Havas" for senior government officials. Over 450 tennis courts have been built in the country during the last two years with hundreds of tennis clubs opening for children. Uzbekistan's National tennis team will play against Australia in Davis Cup's Qualifying Round for the World Group 1999 in the end of September.
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