The international conference, “Central Asia: One Past and a Common Future, Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Mutual Prosperity,” opened in Samarkand
Rashid Alimov: “A neighbour on this earth, far or near, is not merely a geographical concept, but, above all, a moral category.” SCO Secretary General speaks at international conference in Samarkand

On 10 November 2017, an international conference, "Central Asia: One Past and a Common Future, Cooperation for Sustainable Development and Mutual Prosperity," opened in Samarkand in the Republic of Uzbekistan. Convened on the initiative of President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and under the aegis of the UN, the event brought together senior officials and high-ranking representatives from the UN, the OSCE, the European Union, the CIS, Central Asian foreign ministers and others.

The delegates were addressed by President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev, and, via video link, by UN Secretary General António Guterres.

"Regional nations are linked by millennia-old fraternal and good-neighbourly bonds," President Mirziyoyev told the conference. "A readiness and a sincere striving for cooperation, responsibility for the common future of Central Asian states and the confidence that all these nations will benefit from collaboration, serve as a solid foundation for joint development," he noted.

President Mirziyoyev proposed several initiatives aimed at making the region stable and prosperous, beginning with regular meetings of the heads of Central Asian states.

The President of Uzbekistan called for efforts to encourage favourable conditions for regional economic growth. In this context, he suggested establishing the Association of Regional Khakims (Mediators) and Business Communities of Central Asian States to discuss trade, economic and investment cooperation projects.

The President of Uzbekistan expressed confidence that "it is impossible to divide security threats into one's own and those of others" and called for "more profound cooperation, involving regional organisations" in this area, including intra-SCO collaboration, coordinated by the UN.

SCO Secretary General Rashid Alimov addressed participants at the conference's plenary meeting and said the decision to hold the event in Samarkand was deeply symbolic.

"The recollections of ancient Roman historians and the surviving bamboo texts of Chinese travelers, dating to the first years AD, contain exultant passages about the Samarkand of that time, a city with advanced agricultural, livestock-breeding and handicrafts sectors. In the seventh century AD, Du Huan, a famous traveler of the Tang Dynasty, wrote that the land around Samarkand was fertile, and the local climate, warm. He said it was possible to go to Samarkand on affairs of state, and it was a kingdom of carpets, golden treasures, heartfelt songs and dazzling folk dances.

"Time does not rule this eternal and blessed city. Samarkand has been and remains one of the brightest and most unique diamonds in the crown of the eternal and forever young Central Asian cities," Mr Alimov noted.

He also drew attention to the fact that, since ancient times, the region had been a centre for historic meetings and the mutual spiritual enrichment of various countries and continents.

"In the past millennia, the polyphonic culture of Central Asian nations has crystallised into an inimitable and multi-faceted mosaic, and the atmosphere of tolerance has created favourable conditions for the harmonious coexistence of the world's religions," he noted.

Mr Alimov highlighted communication between civilisations, international trade, cultural exchanges and good-neighbourliness as the distinctive features of Central Asian nations. "A neighbour on this earth, far or near, is not merely a geographical concept, but, above all, a moral category. It was the common ties of civilised souls that brought to life spiritual exchanges between neighbouring countries and led to the formation of the Great Silk Road, which is being revived in the early 21st century."

According to Mr. Alimov, independence in Central Asian countries has brought about a revival of former ages, with lively cultural interchanges, underlining an unshakeable spiritual continuity, through generations and eras. "Turning to the past gives extra strength and energy for building a common future, with developments such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, the world's largest universal regional association, co-founded in 2001 by China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan," he noted.

"The SCO's zone of responsibility now includes India and Pakistan, accounting for 25 percent of the world's landmass and almost 50 percent of its population. Large-scale economic initiatives are being actively implemented here, innovative approaches towards long-term joint development are crystallising, and new unique opportunities are opening up for investors and business circles. Central Asian states play an important, and sometimes key, role in these processes," Mr. Alimov added.

The SCO Secretary General sees the geographical proximity, good-neighbourliness and economic interdependence of SCO member-states as conducive to forward-looking projects linked to development of infrastructure, transport and communications. Car and rail are advancing rapidly, and new transport and logistic hubs, now under construction, connect the Pacific Ocean with the Persian Gulf and Europe, via Central Asian countries.

"The agreement between SCO member-states on improved conditions for international lorry traffic opens up new transit-transport opportunities for the landlocked Central Asian countries. The new system of direct transport routes will, like blood arteries, ensure mutually beneficial flows of goods in Eurasia and also to neighbouring regions, including Europe and Southeast Asia. It goes without saying that this will actively encourage the entire system of trade and economic cooperation throughout the Eurasian region," Mr Alimov emphasised.

The SCO Secretary General voiced confidence that further coordination of international, regional and national efforts aimed at cooperation and based on the principles of respect, equality and mutual benefit would open up broad prospects for investment in Central Asia's infrastructure, transport, communications, and its trade in goods and services.

"Central Asian states are making a weighty contribution to deepening dialogue and cooperation and helping maintain comprehensive security, especially in the fight against international terrorism and the spread of terrorist ideology, a global evil. They are also contributing to the fight against illegal drug trafficking," Mr. Alimov noted. "Strengthening regional peace and active involvement in ensuring global stability and security has been, is and always will be the focus of SCO activity. Another priority is facilitating the region's sustained socioeconomic development," the SCO Secretary General said in conclusion.

More than 500 guests, including about 300 foreign delegates and over 80 representatives of media outlets participate in the conference, which is due to continue its work on 11 November 2017.