Umirdinov Alisher, Nagoya University of Economics

Image source: MFA

In many countries, scholars and government officials regularly publish about their countries’ practices in international law. In the United States, the Office of the Legal Adviser publishes the ‘Annual Digest’ of United States practice in international law. The purpose is “to provide the public with a historical record of the views and practice of the Government of the United States in public and private international law”. In Germany, annual reports on the practice of the Federal Republic of Germany in the field of public international law have been published in the Zeitschrift für ausländisches öffentliches Recht und Völkerrecht since the 1950s. In the United Kingdom, the British Yearbook of International Law has a separate chapter for ‘United Kingdom Materials on International Law’. Similar endeavors can be found in the Japanese Yearbook of International Law, the Italian Yearbook of International Law, German Practice in International Law, and also the Chinese (Taiwan) Yearbook of International Law and Affairs. Nevertheless, in contrast to the disproportionate influence of the US and the UK, along with other powerful countries in shaping international law, Central Asian countries and regional scholars have rarely published the contemporary practices of these countries in relation to international law. Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan does not have its own digest on its practice, except for the regular publication of the collection of international treaties of Uzbekistan (O’zbekiston Respublikasi Xalqaro shartnomalari to’plami). Against this background, Digest of Uzbekistan’s Practice in International Law aims to present the country’s practice in the field of public international law in English for non-Uzbek-speaking scholars and practitioners. 

A. Uzbekistan’s stance and actions related to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict

Uzbekistan is among the 138 countries that recognize the State of Palestine as a sovereign state. Palestine has opened its embassy in Tashkent, and both States support their mutual initiatives and cooperate within the framework of international parliamentary structures, the UN, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and several other international organizations. After the escalation of the situation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone from October 7, 2023, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan made two statements first on October 9 and second on  October 18. While the first statement called “on the warring parties to take all measures to quickly end the armed confrontation and resolve the crisis through political and diplomatic means”, the second one Strongly condemned an airstrike on the Al-Ahli hospital in the Gaza Strip:

We strongly condemn this sinister act of violence and consider it a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law.

Uzbekistan also allocated $1.5 million to provide humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, voted in favor of the UN General Assembly resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the region, and on November 13, Uzbekistan voted to declare Israeli settlements in Palestinian territories illegal. Uzbekistan supports the right of Palestine to establish its independent State in accordance with international standards. It also calls on all members to mobilize their capacities to ensure the inviolability of Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy places in Jerusalem. Speaking about the Middle East crisis, President Mirziyoyev said, “We stand together with Palestinian people”. He further noted,

“We strongly express our solidarity with the Palestinian people and support their right to establish their independent state in accordance with the previously adopted resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council”.

Finally, on November 29, 2023, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution calling on Israel to withdraw from the occupied Golan Passes which Uzbekistan supported. As of October 16, 2023, three citizens of Uzbekistan were killed, and four went missing in attacks by Hamas.

B. Uzbekistan – United States Strategic Partnership Dialogue

To foster understanding between the two countries and to hold discussions on a range of issues critical to advancing the Uzbekistan-U.S. bilateral relationship, Uzbekistan and the United States launched the Strategic Partnership Dialogue (SPD) in 2021. The first annual session of the SPD was hosted by Uzbekistan in Tashkent in December 2021, and the second one was hosted by the United States in Washington in 2022. In every annual meeting, the United States reaffirms its support for Uzbekistan’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity and also welcomes ongoing Uzbekistan’s program of reforms aimed at liberalizing the economy and promoting respect for human rights. As an important step, on the same day, both sides signed Cultural Property Agreement, which aims to combat the illicit trade in cultural property. This move mainly was initiated by the United States, as a state party to the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. The United States has concluded 25 similar treaties with countries in the world. As a final note, the United States also showed its support for Uzbekistan in the WTO accession process.

(excerpt from the Joint Statement)

The delegations discussed the growing partnership between the Republic of Uzbekistan and the United States in political, economic, security, human, and cultural dimensions. The United States reaffirmed its unwavering support for Uzbekistan’s independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity.

The delegations reaffirmed the importance of continuing close political-diplomatic cooperation, including through high-level bilateral exchanges as well as collaboration within international institutions. The United States reaffirmed support for Uzbekistan’s accession to the World Trade Organization. The two sides exchanged views on regional issues such as continuing humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan and enhancing constructive partnership through the C5+1 diplomatic format. 

The United States and Uzbekistan signed a bilateral Cultural Property Agreement, which strengthens our diplomatic ties in the fight against the looting and trafficking of ancient art, artifacts, and cultural objects. The Agreement commits both countries to combating the illicit trade of antiquities, historical artifacts, and cultural objects and ensures that undocumented objects from Uzbekistan that may have been illegally obtained or exported will not cross U.S. borders.

C. Sanctions against Uzbek companies related to Russia-Ukraine War

Uzbekistan did not join Western countries in sanctioning Russia for the Ukraine war. Nevertheless, due to the potential circumvention of goods originating from the US, EU, and other sanctioning countries, the US and the EU side cautioned Uzbekistan against providing assistance to Russia. The US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, promised during his Central Asian tour in February-March 2023 that the US will help mitigate the consequences of sanctions against Russia in Central Asian countries. After him, David O’Sullivan, the European Union’s Special Envoy for Sanctions, visited Uzbekistan twice in 2023.  In his trip in May 2023, the EU’s sanctions envoy urged Uzbekistan to strengthen control measures on the movement of specific EU-made products with dual or military use. In his second recent visit, the EU Sanctions Envoy aimed to continue talks on sanctions with various ministries of Uzbekistan.

We note that, for the first time, on June 28, 2022, the US sanctioned Uzbekistan’s Promcomplektlogistic Private Company for its active support of the Russian company Radioavtomatika in its effort to evade the US. sanctions. Next, on April 12, 2023, the US Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on the country’s biggest taxpayer, Akhangarancement cement plant, and its founder Akkermann Cement CA, which is affiliated with Uzbek-born tycoon Alisher Usmanov over concerns of potential sanction circumvention. In addition, the 2023 April US sanctions also included several nationals and citizens of Uzbekistan. At the beginning of November 2023, US sanctions were imposed on the Uzbek company Mvizion, which is primarily engaged in the wholesale trade of electronic and telecommunication equipment and spare parts. In June 2023, the EU also slapped 2 Uzbek companies – Alfa Beta Creative ва GFK Logistic Asia – with sanctions. Later on, Ukraine also joined in sanctioning Uzbek companies. It is reported that the Uzbek government is working with the US Treasury Department and OFAC and also with EU countries to resolve the issue, as Uzbekistan tries to find a balance between maintaining its crucial business ties with Russia and avoiding bringing secondary sanctions on itself. For instance, during the second visit of the EU’s special envoy for sanctions to the country, the Uzbek Government pledged to provide the European Union with statistical data to help assess the extent of the circumvention of sanctions.

D. Accession Negotiations to the WTO

Uzbekistan’s accession process to the WTO formally resumed in July 2020 with the 4th Working Party meeting.  Two more meetings took place in June 2022 and March 2023. The final meeting of the Working Party was held on November 16 in Geneva. A delegation of nearly 50 officials (in March) attended the meeting alongside the Chair of the Inter-Agency Commission on WTO Accession, Jamshid Khodjayev, and Chief Negotiator, Mr. Azizbek Urunov. The WTO members commended the Uzbek Government for stepping up its efforts to advance its accession negotiations, evidenced by strengthened domestic institutions for ensuring compliance with WTO rules. According to the report by the WTO, between June and October of 2023, Uzbekistan submitted a number of updated documents for the seventh Working Party meeting and introduced several critical policy and institutional measures aimed at accelerating accession negotiations. Uzbek side reported that it has undertaken to advance the negotiations, including the establishment of a special department in the Ministry of Justice for ensuring compliance with WTO rules and the creation of WTO divisions in 20 ministries and agencies. Uzbekistan also informed the WTO of the signing of bilateral agreements with five members since the last Working Party meeting, including Georgia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Türkiye, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  It has also actively engaged in bilateral market access negotiations with 31 members.

The Working Party continued the examination of the foreign trade regime of Uzbekistan, based on the Secretariat’s second revision of the Factual Summary of Points Raised and other supporting documentation, which included updated Agriculture Supporting Tables for 2020-2022. Ahead of the meeting, Uzbekistan also submitted Action Plans on Trade Facilitation, measures on technical barriers to trade (TBT), sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) issues, and intellectual property, as well as a list of additional draft commitment paragraphs.

On the bilateral front, WTO members requested Uzbekistan to share its revised market access offers on goods and services with interested members. Uzbekistan and WTO members were also encouraged to step up their engagement to conclude the negotiations. On the multilateral front, members were invited to submit questions, comments, and proposals for draft commitments by 14 December 2023. Uzbekistan was requested to provide its replies to members’ questions, which would be the basis for the Secretariat to update the multilateral document for the next meeting, along with other documents requested, such as a revised state trading questionnaire, a revised draft subsidies notification and additional information on export competition. On the legislative front, Tashkent was invited to revise its Legislative Action Plan and provide copies of enacted and draft trade-related legislation. A specific date for the next Working Party meeting will be announced once all the required negotiating inputs are in place.

E. Alliance Relations with Kazakhstan

The Senate of Uzbekistan approved the Law on Ratification of the Treaty of Alliance Relations between Uzbekistan and the Republic of Kazakhstan (Tashkent, December 22, 2022) on November 25, 2023, and five days later, the President also signed it. The treaty is not yet open to the public, nonetheless, according to news outlets, it envisages “close cooperation in the areas of foreign policy, defense and security, migration, the development of industrial cooperation, the adoption of joint measures for the rational use of transboundary water resources, and strengthening ties between parliaments, political parties and public organizations.” It is worth noting that Uzbekistan previously concluded a similar type of treaty only with the Russian Federation in 2005.

Cite as: Umirdinov Alisher, “Digest of Uzbekistan’s Practice in International Law (October-December 2023)”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 29.01.2024.