TASHKENT -- Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev Monday (January 20) refused to commit his country to joining the Russian-dominated Eurasian Economic Union (EEU), reported the Tashkent Times.
Instead, Uzbekistan will have observer status, as Moldova has had since 2017.
Mirziyoyev explained his decision during the first session of the just-elected Uzbek senate.
The EEU's members include Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Armenia and Belarus.
"Let me give my opinion about [economic] integration," said Mirziyoyev, according to Kun.uz. "Many of our citizens work abroad, in Kazakhstan and Russia."
"Bear in mind one thing," he said. "Nobody will ever give away our independence to anyone. Independence rests in the hands of a president whom the people trust."
"We will not be a member of this union," he said.
Instead, Uzbekistan will have observer status, not membership, he said, according to Nur.kz.
"We'll see what the pluses and minuses are," he said, according to Kun.uz, explaining the benefit of being an observer rather than member. "Be assured that whatever we do, we will take our national interests into account."
The EEU has proven a bitter disappointment to some of its members, such as Kazakhstan.
Kazakh officials and business leaders, for instance, have complained that the bloc serves Russian interests while keeping Kazakh exporters from selling to the Russian market.
"We as Kazakh entrepreneurs are placed in a difficult situation when we can't compete with Russian companies either in Russia, because they don't let us into the market, or in Kazakhstan, where they 'dump' their merchandise [purposely selling at a loss]," said Kostanay dairy entrepreneur Aset Nurtayev last November. "How can we survive?"