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Uzbek President Seeks Improved Ties With Germany During Visit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev speak to reporters in Berlin on January 21.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel (right) and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev speak to reporters in Berlin on January 21.

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoev, in Germany as part of his bid to end long years of relative isolation for his Central Asian country, says he wants to bring relations with Germany to “a tangibly new and higher level.”

Speaking on January 21 after talks in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other German leaders, Mirziyoev said he hopes closer ties would boost German investment in Uzbekistan as well as technological cooperation.

For her part, Merkel said Germany wants to be "Uzbekistan's reliable partner."

"We see a lot of opportunities to expand ties between our countries," Merkel said at a joint press conference with Mirziyoev after their talks.

Mirzoyev, a longtime prime minister who became president after autocratic leader Islam Karimov's death was announced in September 2016, has cultivated warmer ties with Uzbekistan's neighbors and countries further afield, in part in an apparent effort to bolster the struggling economy in the nation of some 30 million. He has taken steps to implement reforms in Uzbekistan, where torture and other rights abuses were widespread under Karimov.

In a commentary published on January 21, the Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch said the "positive changes in Uzbekistan are from a very low base."

Hugh Williamson wrote that Mirziyoev's visit to German was an opportunity for Merkel and President Frank-Walter Steinmeier to "welcome progress but to make clear the terms on which Berlin will engage further with Tashkent."

"They should call for the release of the thousands of people still behind bars on politically motivated charges, and for an end to internet censorship and to pressure on civil society," Williamson added.

Uzbekistan’s presidential press service said Mirziyoev and Merkel discussed cooperation in the areas of politics and security, trade, technology and innovation, investment, education, and culture.

It said nine intergovernmental and interagency documents were signed by Mirziyoev and Merkel related to the economy, trade, finances, education, science, and innovations.

"Uzbekistan is open for a constructive dialogue in the area of providing human rights and freedoms and cooperation to make the public-management systems transparent and fully eradicate corruption in the country," Mirziyoev said.

Both leaders also expressed interest in further cooperation within the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and through other international bodies.

Mirziyoev also met on January 21 with German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Bundestag President Wolfgang Schauble.

Mirziyoyev concludes his three-day visit on January 22 after talks in Munich with Bavarian Prime Minister Markus Soder and with German business and financial sector leaders.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Uzbek Service and Interfax
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