TASHKENT -- Historical ties and improved co-operation between Central Asian countries are helping enhance solutions to a number of regional issues.
"All the Central Asian countries are contributing to the development of regional co-operation by initiating the implementation of joint projects and the resolution of major problems for all of us," Uzbek Foreign Minister Abulaziz Kamilov said during his opening remarks at a February 19 event in Tashkent, according to Kun.uz.
The conference, titled "Central Asian Connectivity: Challenges and New Opportunities", was aimed at promoting co-operation on security, trade, transportation, communication, water consumption, energy, tourism, education, science and other issues in the region.
More than 100 analysts from 36 countries attended the event, which was organised by the Uzbek Foreign Ministry and the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia.
Members of various European Union- and US-based organisations, as well as international bodies such as the World Bank, the European Investment Bank and the World Trade Organisation and other international financial institutions, also participated in the conference.
Regional co-operation is being heightened in all areas, and the countries are resolving their biggest regional problems -- security, border demarcation and water use -- "on a systemic basis", said Kamilov.
Uzbekistan has elevated its relations with neighbouring states to the level of strategic partnership, he said.
Meanwhile, Uzbekistan's revenue from trade with other Central Asian countries increased more than 50% last year compared to 2017, he said, adding that other countries in the region are also benefiting from the improved relationships.
"Strengthening regional co-operation is an objective, sustainable and irreversible trend," Kamilov said. "It's based on the firm political will of all countries in the region and has deep historical roots."
"The process of rapprochement in Central Asia is not directed against anybody else's interests," he added.
The work of dismantling isolationist policies and political barriers, initiated by Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev, has strengthened regional co-operation and is being viewed by analysts as a major breakthrough in relations among Central Asian states.
"The tendency toward rapprochement of the Central Asian countries is a natural process," Iskender Sharsheyev, a Bishkek economist and director of the Global Technology Solutions Co., told Caravanserai.
"We have historical, cultural and kinship ties. Our countries, ideally speaking, are approaching the formation of a powerful integrated whole, which will be the strongest regional player and will speak to powerful countries as an equal," he said.
Developing common approaches
Local and international specialists presented analytical reports on trade and economic co-operation, regional security, the environment and energy, rational use of water, tourism and cultural-humanitarian relations during the two-day conference.
Participants noted the importance of continuing development in trade and economic co-operation in Central Asia in order to implement free trade in the region, as well as the simplification of customs and border procedures.
"The development of regional ties enables us to unite and to solve shared problems, help each other and be friends, as well as create jobs for our citizens and regional-level enterprises," Dastan Bekeshev, a member of Kyrgyzstan's parliament, told Caravanserai.
[Kanat Altynbayev contributed to this report.]