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- In many advanced nations of the world, there is a practice whereby the head of state addresses the national parliament on the most important and urgent issues of political, socio-economic and democratic development.

In his speech, the President of Uzbekistan touched upon all aspects of the life of the state and society. A special attention was also paid to the issues of an effective, pragmatic and, most importantly, effective foreign policy course.

In this regard, it should be emphasized that, like all other spheres of the country's life, Uzbekistan's foreign policy was marked in the past year with unprecedented dynamism, openness, initiative and pragmatism in promoting the country's national interests in the international arena. This ensured significant results in creating a security, stability and good neighborhood around Uzbekistan, creating favorable conditions for the effective implementation of the ongoing reforms in the country, deepening trade, economic and investment ties with foreign countries, ensuring the rights and interests of Uzbek citizens abroad.

First, there was a significant intensification of foreign policy activity, in which the active personal diplomacy of the Head of State set the tone. In 2017, 21 high-level visits took place; the President of Uzbekistan held meetings with the leaders and representatives of more than 60 states and international organizations. Thanks to this, breakthrough results were achieved in the development of Uzbekistan's relations with the countries of Central Asia and significant advancement of our country's strategic partnership with Russia, China, the United States of America and the Republic of Korea.

The initiative and innovative character of the foreign policy of the President of Uzbekistan was clearly manifested in the course of a large-scale change of paradigms in multilateral diplomacy. Thanks to a pragmatic review of the old established approaches and a firm "focus on results", a new quality of Uzbekistan's interaction with such authoritative international structures as the United Nations, the Islamic Cooperation Organization, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Commonwealth of Independent States was achieved.

A decisive role in this was played by high-level contacts, including the participation of the President of Uzbekistan in the SCO and CIS summits, the work of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, the visit of the UN Secretary General A. Guterres to Uzbekistan.

Visits to Uzbekistan of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief were held for the first time. Uzbekistan joined the activities of a number of CIS bodies, increased the level of representation of the republic in the statutory bodies of the Commonwealth to the Deputy Prime Minister, stated about Uzbekistan's intention to hold the CIS summit for the first time in many years. The "pause" in relations with the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly was interrupted - our legislators joined in on its activities. The country's participation in the Economic Cooperation Organization, the Inter-Parliamentary Union, the Forum of Arab Economic Cooperation with the countries of Central Asia and Azerbaijan has been renewed.

Secondly, in the bilateral relations and in cooperation with multilateral structures, the priority was to intensify practical cooperation aimed at solving major tasks of the country's modernization and social problems. On the instructions of the Head of State, the most important priority of foreign policy activity was the issues of export promotion, attraction of foreign investments and technologies, development of transport and transit potential and tourism.

Suffice it to say that more than 400 agreements were concluded during the contacts held at the highest level, trade and investment treaties were signed for a total of 60 billion US dollars. With a view to timely and qualitative implementation of the agreements reached with foreign partners, a new practice for developing and approving road maps for developing cooperation with foreign countries was introduced for our country. Over 40 road maps have been adopted since the beginning of the year, which are implemented jointly with foreign countries and international organizations, providing a significant increase in the effectiveness of interagency coordination, the activities of economic organizations and enterprises to implement agreed programs and cooperation projects.

The effectiveness of this work is evidenced by a noticeable growth of the republic's foreign trade. Over the first 10 months of 2017, Uzbekistan's trade with foreign countries grew by 16.6% to more than $ 22 billion. The volume of trade with Russia increased by 18% ($ 4.01 billion), China by 15% ($ 4 billion) Kazakhstan - 12.3% ($ 1.71 billion), Turkey - 31% ($ 1.23 billion), the Republic of Korea - 36% ($ 1.1 billion).

The most important priority of foreign economic activity of Uzbekistan was the activation and expansion of the geography of interaction with the leading international financial institutions. A major event was the restoration of cooperation with the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, which resulted in the resumption of financing by this institute of socially significant projects in the regions of the republic. Established partnerships with the European Investment Bank have been opening up new opportunities to attract investment resources of European countries. The interaction with the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Asian Development Bank, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Asian Bank for Infrastructure Investments acquires a dynamic character.

It should be emphasized that structural reforms and major modernization programs of major sectors of the economy in our country have caused a high dynamics of cooperation with world and regional development institutions.

Thirdly, the most important result of the country's foreign policy activities in the outgoing year was undoubtedly the breakthrough of Uzbek diplomacy in the regional direction, which has formed a qualitative improvement in relations with the countries of Central Asia and the creation of conditions for effective, mutually beneficial cooperation between the countries of the region.

President Shavkat Mirziyoyev declared the Central Asian region as the main foreign policy priority of Uzbekistan, which was the starting point of the new regional policy of Tashkent, which provided for the intensification of official bilateral contacts and the all-round development of cooperation. In support of this, the first state visits of Shavkat Miriziyoyev took place in the neighboring countries of the region, which was positively received both in Central Asia and in international diplomatic and expert circles.

Over the past time, the head of state held more than 20 meetings with the leaders of the states of the region, carried out 10 state, official and working visits at the highest level. The strengthening of relations with the leaders of Central Asian countries and increasing their dynamism is also evidenced by regular telephone conversations with them.

During these official contacts, strategic cooperation with Kazakhstan was strengthened by new economic agreements, strategic partnerships with Turkmenistan and Kyrgyzstan were established, and interaction with Tajikistan became positive. To a large extent, thanks to the new agreements of the heads of state, intensive development of trade-economic, investment, production-cooperative, transport and communication links and cultural-humanitarian cooperation is provided.

A key element of Uzbekistan's new regional policy was Tashkent's desire to step up diplomatic work to resolve major bilateral and regional problems, including issues of delimitation of borders and water use that had not been resolved for many years. Thanks to the political will shown by the President of the country, in September of this year a truly significant, historic event took place. During the state visit to the Kyrgyz Republic, the Treaty on the State Border between Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan was signed, settling the passage of more than 80% of the border. In his speech at the UN General Assembly session, President

Sh. Mirziyoyev highlighted the agreement, stressing the Uzbek side's readiness "for reasonable compromises with the countries of Central Asia on all issues without exception".

Thanks to the active policy of Uzbekistan in the Central Asian direction, the system conditions and prerequisites for provoking the growth of the conflict potential in the region were virtually eliminated. The ideas of deepening and enhancing regional cooperation in Central Asia, creating an atmosphere of friendship and good-neighborliness have found their practical embodiment.

The new initiatives set forth by the President of Uzbekistan in his speeches during the UN General Assembly session and at the UN International Conference on Security and Sustainable Development in Central Asia (November 10-11, 2018, Samarkand) .

As a result of the conference, a communiqué was adopted in which the Central Asian states spoke in favor of deepening regional cooperation, resolving all disputes on the basis of mutual compromises and respect for each other's interests. The countries of the region supported the initiatives of the Uzbekistan leadership on the development of regional cooperation, including the core idea of launching the mechanism of regular consultative meetings of the heads of state of Central Asia.

Fourth, an important part of the foreign policy course of President Sh. Mirziyoyev was the activation of Uzbek diplomacy in the Afghan direction. Uzbekistan has significantly expanded its bilateral relations with Afghanistan, actively joined multilateral efforts to resolve the Afghan problem. An important part of this policy was the participation of Tashkent in the activities of various multilateral mechanisms to promote the peace process and economic reconstruction of Afghanistan, the support of the Uzbek side to involve Kabul in regional economic processes.

Undoubtedly, a major event in bilateral relations was the official visit to Uzbekistan of the President of the Republic of Afghanistan, A.Gani, successfully held in early December of this year, which consolidated a qualitatively new level of political relations and practical cooperation between the two countries, including agreements on the implementation of major projects for the construction of the Surkhan - Pul-e-Khumri power transmission line and the Mazar-i-Sharif - Shibergan - Maymana - Herat railway.

The Uzbek side believes that the development of bilateral cooperation with Afghanistan, including the implementation of the agreements reached during the visit of the Afghan leader, will make a significant contribution to the restoration of the economy and the stabilization of this country.

Fifth, the significant improvement in the international image of the Republic of Uzbekistan has become an important result of pursuing an energetic, open and pragmatic foreign policy course of the Head of State, as well as deep political, economic and social reforms in the country. This is evidenced by a noticeable increase in interest in our country in international expert circles.

Italian expert D. Kankarini notes that, having been in power for only one year, President Sh. Mirziyoyev demonstrated a high strategic vision by reformatting the country's foreign policy, including on the basis that it meets the needs of developing its economy. In his opinion, the Uzbek leader's aspiration for the development of regional cooperation is of particular importance, "since few people doubt that the developed mechanisms of regional cooperation will bring a significant return to Central Asia."

A well-known Kazakh analyst S. Akimbekov is sure that "at the moment there is an unprecedented interest in Uzbekistan in the world. This is mainly due to high expectations for changes in this country, which are associated with the name of the new president Shavkat Mirziyoyev. Under him, Uzbekistan is already changing significantly and everyone is watching this with genuine interest."

German experts of the Committee on Eastern European Economic Relations believe that the new President of Uzbekistan, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, "is pursuing a course of reforms in its country to make it more competitive," he seeks to "modernize and diversify" the Uzbek economy. This "fresh wind on the Silk Road" opens up opportunities for cooperation with German companies.

The creation of a favorable information background around Uzbekistan enhances the positive perception of the republic in the world and enhances its investment attractiveness. As a result, the image of Uzbekistan is being strengthened as one of the attractive political and economic partners.

The President's innovative foreign policy creates the conditions for further intensifying Uzbek diplomacy and Uzbekistan's cooperation with the most important partners in the region and in the world. At the same time, it makes much more serious demands on foreign and foreign policy workers, which is designed to provide conditions for the modernization of the country and the solution of pressing social problems. In this connection, it is obvious that it is necessary to achieve a qualitatively new level in foreign policy and foreign economic activity, in accordance with the high goals set forth in the Address by the country's leadership.

Eldor Aripov,

Director of Information-Analytical Center for International Relations (Source: «Uzbekistan Today» newspaper)