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Uzbekistan’s President Mirziyoyev in Italy: a renovated bilateral cooperation through the Strategic Partnership

The recent official visit of the Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in Italy paves the way to further enhance bilateral relations, upgrading these to a strategic partnership’s level, which will cover several dimensions and areas of cooperation, such as trade, defence, security,  culture, science, education and tourism (Italian Government, Joint declaration on establishing strategic partnership relationships between the Italian Republic and the Republic of Uzbekistan, 8th of June 2023, www.governo.it/sites/governo.it/Declaration_ITA_Uzbekistan.pdf). In two days, the Uzbek President had high-level meetings with President Mattarella, the Italian Prime Minister Meloni and the representatives of the main business companies and financial institutions.
Mirziyoyev’s visit in Italy was the result of a general improvement of bilateral relations: in April 2023, Italian Minister of Defence Guido Crosetto visited Uzbekistan, focussing discussions not only on the economic affairs but also on the security and defence sphere, due to potential instability threats linked to the presence of the Islamic State-Khorasan terrorists in the region (D. Cristiani, Italy Builds Closer Ties to Uzbekistan, in “Eurasia Daily Monitor”, Volume: 20 Issue: 71, May 2, 2023). Since 2016 Italy and Uzbekistan have strongly bolstered their economic and trade relations, benefitting from the more open foreign policy undertaken by Mirziyoyev: in 2022 trade grew by 32% compared to 2021, while Italian companies are investing in the country in order to meet the increasing demand of goods, services and know-how (Uzbekistan is the largest market and the most populous republic in Central Asia), aimed at supporting a wider diversification of the national economy. At present Italy represents the second European trading partner:  according to the words of the presidential press secretary Sherzod Asadov, “Italy has become the first strategic partner of Uzbekistan in Western Europe”. Uzbek President also attended a business forum, during which a package of investment agreements and trade contracts worth over €9 billion was signed (The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deputy Minister Edmondo Cirielli opens the Italy-Uzbekistan Business Forum, June 6, 2023; Italy has become the first strategic partner of Uzbekistan in Western Europe, “Kun.Uz”, June 9, 2023).
Considering the political and social stability of the country together with its geographical centrality in the heart of Central Asia (Uzbekistan shares borders with the other Central Asian states as well as with Afghanistan), the improved cooperation with Tashkent government could be the key to enhance Italy’s economic and diplomatic role in the region. In this perspective, Italy already supports an inclusive dialogue with Central Asia through the 1+5 format of cooperation, and the enhanced bilateral cooperation with Uzbekistan will further develop regional cooperation in different fields. Last but not least, Italian diplomacy could give a positive contribution to the EU in order to achieve the Strategy towards Central Asia, as in the final signature of the Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement between Uzbekistan and the European Union, a format that will upgrade the relation between these two regions.

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