Central Asian Caucasus leaders outline development strategies for region

FForeign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov of Uzbekistan addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Loey Felipe On a broader regional level, Mr. Kamilov called for large infrastructure projects in the transport and communications sphere connecting Central Asia to global markets, promoting regional trade, attracting investment, and developing infrastructure. At the same time, it is unacceptable that some countries of the region plan to build large hydropower stations with gigantic dams in high-mountain or highly seismic zones. They must conduct expert examinations first. Since gaining independence in 1991, Uzbekistan’s economy has grown five-fold and during the last ten years, its annual GDP growth exceeded 8 per cent. Around 60 per cent of state expenditures are channelled to funding social development through education. The share of women in the employment sector grew to 45.4 per cent and the mortality rate among children has dropped. The Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan, Elmar Mammadyarov, said that his country’s economy accounts for more than 80 per cent of that of the South Caucasus. This “unrivalled high rate” of economic growth has reduced the poverty rate from 49 per cent in 2004 to 5.3 per cent in 2014. Over the same period, the unemployment rate has decreased from 10.6 per cent to 5 per cent. In his remarks to the General Assembly, Kazakhstan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Erlan Idrissov, said he was particularly concerned with the continuing violence in the Middle East and Africa, and now Ukraine, whose impact extends to the entire region including through sanctions being imposed by countries that together make up 60 per cent of the world GDP (gross domestic product). To help adjust to emerging global challenges, the UN should focus on the promotion of tolerance, justice and peace. “We believe a stronger UN presence in Almaty would allow the UN to better support Central Asia and wider Eurasia at a critical time in its history, ‘filling in’ the geographical gap between UN offices in Istanbul and Southeast Asia,” he said. Two weeks ago, on the International Day Against Nuclear Tests, the UN commemorated the closing of the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site – a defining moment for Kazakhstan and a starting point towards peaceful foreign policy. Kazakhstan is also working hard to transition to a “green economy”, having recently adopted voluntary commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Along with the UN Development Programme (UNDP), it is developing a training system in the sectors of oil and gas, agriculture and medicine. As the largest landlocked country in the world, Kazakhstan understands the need to address the special transportation and trade vulnerabilities of such nations. On Afghanistan, he welcomed the election of the new President and said that economic development is key to the country’s re-emergence as a peaceful and prosperous Central Asian neighbour. Afghanistan’s integration into the region must be in all areas including trade, energy and transportation. Echoing that sentiment at the podium, Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister, Abdulaziz Kamilov, said there is no military way to achieve peace in Afghanistan. The recent presidential elections have demonstrated that only reasonable way to tackle the Afghan problem is through peaceful negotiations and consensus. Foreign Minister Elmar Maharram oglu Mammadyarov of Azerbaijan addresses the General Assembly. UN Photo/Loey Felipe Azerbaijan was establishing itself as a reliable supplier of energy with a $50 billion dollar project which envisages construction of pipeline systems as well as a Trans-Eurasian information super highway (TASIM) to facilitate access to the Internet for 20 countries throughout the region. Regional transport projects are also in the works, said Mr. Mammadyarov. For more than 20 years, Mr. Mammadyarov said that Armenia has been using force against the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh region. Recently several Azerbaijani civilians visiting graveyards of their relatives in the occupied territories were taken hostage, tortured and some were even killed by security forces in Armenia. Two days ago, he said, the President of Armenia in his remarks to the General Assembly tried to mislead by distorting the facts and the situation on the ground.

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