Written by Nilufarkhon Makhmudova,

April 1, 2021

Image source: ipleaders.in

  1. Introduction

There is an ongoing controversy as to whether a newly formed state needs recognition from the international community or not. There are two major theories on state creation: declarative theory and constitutive theory. Declarative theory suggests that existence of attributes of a state (a defined territory, a permanent population, government, capacity to enter into relations with the other states) is sufficient for the establishment of a new state as a subject of international law. In contrast, constitutive theory argues that an entity becomes a subject of international law only after gaining recognition by other states. Some states are operating notwithstanding the absence or paucity of such an international recognition. Nonetheless, recognition is an important institution in international law and politics which surely entails legal, political, economic and other consequences which otherwise would not emerge. This blog-post purports to analyze Uzbekistan’s policy on recognition of controversial states. It should be firstly mentioned that in accordance with Article 17 of the Constitution, Uzbekistan’s foreign policy is based on the principles of sovereign equality of states, non-use of force or threat of its use, inviolability of frontiers, peaceful settlement of disputes, non-interference in the internal affairs of other states and other universally recognized principles and norms of the international law.

2. Uzbekistan’s policy on state recognition

Since institution of recognition in international law is not codified, recognition of newly formed states takes truly diverse forms ranging from a mere congratulation message with independence to conclusion of a bilateral treaty. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) implies that Uzbekistan uses establishment of diplomatic relations as a means of recognizing another state. Let’s have a look at some of the controversial states with whom Uzbekistan has and has not established diplomatic relations.


Palestine enjoys recognition from all of the Central Asian (CA) countries. Uzbekistan has established diplomatic relations with Israel and Palestine in 1992 and 1994, respectively. Since then Uzbekistan has been continuing stable relations with both countries. At the recent talks with Palestinian MFA, Uzbek side expressed solidarity with the Palestinian people in their desire to create a sovereign state and declared that Uzbekistan supports Palestinian efforts to resolve the Middle East crisis through peaceful negotiations. It can be inferred that Uzbekistan’s policy towards the sacred, yet much disputed area is based on stable diplomatic relations with both sides.

Moving to the controversial states not recognized by Uzbekistan, the list shows that Uzbekistan has not established diplomatic relations with states such as Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Kosovo, and the Republic of Artsakh. Let’s have a look at the position of Uzbekistan with regard to the abovementioned states as well as the case of Crimea and reasons for such a position.


According to MFA of Kosovo, 117 countries have recognized it as a state. None of the CIS countries, including Uzbekistan, have recognized Kosovo as an independent state. Moreover, when the Republic of Kosovo entered the Convention on Abolishing the Requirement of Legalization of Foreign Public Documents (Apostille Convention of October 5, 1961), the Republic of Uzbekistan notified that the provisions of this Convention do not apply between Uzbekistan and Kosovo. This notification gives a clear message that Uzbekistan does not and will not recognize Kosovo, though without explanations. Unlike Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan has as far as in 2008 actively refused to recognize Kosovo, as well as South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Kazakhstan explains its refusal by stating that the borders are already determined and cannot be changed. It is interesting if probable grant of UN membership to Kosovo will make a change in Uzbekistan’s position.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia

Uzbekistan has recognized neither South Ossetia nor Abkhazia who have recognition of only a few countries. In contrast, Uzbekistan affirmed strong support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. It is very unlikely that Uzbekistan will ever recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia when Georgia and Uzbekistan are elaborating bilateral cooperation in tourism, trade and transit, just to name a few.

Here an interesting hypothetical question arises: what would happen if there is a need for Uzbekistan to protect its nationals residing in a state not recognized by Uzbekistan? Here is a real life example of Uzbek nationals stranded in Abkhazia due to the Covid-19 pandemic. In light of the pandemic, 400 Uzbeks in Abkhazia asked for repatriation. According to the MFA, the Ministry sent appropriate appeals to the Russian side (Russia has recognized both South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008) to obtain permission for citizens of Uzbekistan to cross the Russian border for their repatriation to their homeland. Russia allowed Uzbek citizens cross the Abkhazian border into Russia and from there they returned to Uzbekistan through a charter flight. So in this case, Uzbekistan needed the involvement of a third party, Russia, in order to protect nationals in a state not recognized by Uzbekistan.

The Republic of Artsakh

Uzbekistan did not recognize Artsakh, the cause of deadly wars between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Uzbekistan voted for the UNGA Resolution which supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Azerbaijan within its internationally recognized borders. When another war broke out between Armenia and Azerbaijan in September of 2020, Uzbekistan called the parties to resolve the dispute by peaceful means respecting the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity. Obviously, Uzbekistan’s position was that the dispute should be resolved in favor of the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan. After the successful military operation of Azerbaijan, Uzbek president congratulated his Azeri partner with this victory and restoration of justice in Nagorno-Karabakh.  


As a result of the internationally highly disputed referendum of 2014, Crimea declared independence from Ukraine and integrated into the Russian Federation. Uzbekistan was among the countries who abstained in the adoption of UNGA Resolution titled “Territorial integrity of Ukraine”, calling on States, international organizations and specialized agencies not to recognize any change in the status of Crimea or the Black Sea port city of Sevastopol and to refrain from actions or dealings that might be interpreted as such. In case of Ukraine, Uzbekistan stated that the only reasonable way out of this parallel wire is the search for a mutually acceptable compromise solution to the problems. We can observe that Uzbekistan relied on the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes in the case of Crimea rather than the principle of territorial integrity invoked by Uzbekistan in case of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Moreover, in 2018, Uzbekistan voted against the UNGA Resolution which urged the Russian Federation to withdraw its military forces from Crimea and end its temporary occupation of the territory of Ukraine without delay. This raised concerns that Uzbekistan is voting in favor of Russia and recognizing Crimea to be a part of Russia. When UNGA adopted a similar Resolution in December of 2020, Uzbekistan did not vote at all. Some scholars argue that Uzbekistan’s abstaining and non-voting show that it may be the most independent from Moscow in terms of Crimea comparing to other CA countries.

3. Analysis of Uzbekistan’s policy

The practice of Uzbekistan shows that it utilizes constitutive theory with regard to recognizing a state. As it can be seen in the example of Kosovo, the fact that an entity meets the criteria of statehood is not sufficient for Uzbekistan to consider that entity as a state.  Consequently, a state not recognized by Uzbekistan cannot enjoy the privileges available to recognized states.

As a general rule, Uzbekistan recognizes a state unless it was created in breach of international law, in particular the territorial integrity of another state. Crimea’s integration into Russia is the exceptional case with the territorial integrity issues where Uzbekistan abstains. Uzbekistan does not explain its position explicitly notwithstanding the presence of a similar domestic issue. The status of the Republic of Karakalpakstan, a part of Uzbekistan, is similar to that of former Autonomous Republic of Crimea. The Article 74 of Uzbekistan’s Constitution acknowledges the right of Karakalpakstan to secede from Uzbekistan on the basis of a referendum. Uzbekistan is abstaining when it comes to the exercise of such a right by Crimea. However, a major feature of the Crimean referendum to bear in mind is that it involved Russian military forces and is alleged to be illegal. Therefore, it would be reasonable to conclude that Uzbekistan’s position in this case does not mean that Uzbekistan is denying the right to self-determination of an autonomous republic. Uzbekistan seems to be in the position of abstaining as a “golden mean” between close-knit partnership with Russia and the issues of Ukrainian territorial integrity

4. Conclusion

Uzbekistan’s recognition policy is conducted on the basis of universally recognized principles of respect for sovereignty, territorial integrity and peaceful settlement of disputes. Fulfillment of conditions of statehood does not result in Uzbekistan granting recognition. Uzbekistan uses establishment of diplomatic relations as a means of recognition rather than distinguishing between them as separate political and legal acts. In any contentious case Uzbekistan calls on the parties to resolve the conflict by peaceful diplomacy.

Cite as: Nilufarkhon Makhmudova, “Uzbekistan’s policy on state recognition: analysis”, Uzbekistan Law Blog, 01.04.2021.