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Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (L) and his Uzbek counterpart Bahtiyor Saidov at the opening ceremony.

The Embassy of Uzbekistan in Budapest has been opened, meaning that all member states of the Organization of Turkic States now have diplomatic missions in Hungary, and instead of being closed and isolated, there is a trend of opening up, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó announced on Monday.

At a press conference held jointly with his Uzbek counterpart, Bahtiyor Saidov, the Hungarian Foreign Minister described the event as a diplomatic history-making event, stressing that this is the first visit of an Uzbek foreign minister to Hungary.

Péter Szijjártó said that Hungary wants peace in the war in Ukraine, and Uzbekistan is of the same opinion, so it is a special pleasure that a country that also wants peace has opened an embassy in Budapest. He then praised the bilateral relationship based on mutual respect from which both sides have benefited a lot so far, but the opening of the embassy could, he said, add a new dimension to cooperation.

The foreign minister said that the economic breakthrough had been achieved by making leading Hungarian bank OTP the fifth largest player in the Uzbek banking sector, as it had acquired a local company and now had around 1.6 million customers in the Central Asian country. “Certainly the presence of OTP in Uzbekistan is an encouragement for new Hungarian companies, as their legal and financial security is now guaranteed,” he stated.

He then reported that the two countries had concluded important agreements on the further development of economic relations. Firstly, a special industrial zone will be created near Tashkent, the Uzbek capital, specifically for Hungarian investors, where they will be able to operate under preferential rules, and a number of Hungarian companies have already expressed interest in the opportunity. The government will provide support for this, and a financial fund is being set up for this purpose.

Szijjártó also announced that

a direct air link between the two capitals will be established by the end of the year, initially with two flights a week, for which technical, financial, and legal preparations are already well under way.

Also on Monday, a Hungarian-Uzbek Business Forum was held in Budapest, which was attended by Szijjártó. At the event, he said that the conditions for the development of economic cooperation between Hungary and Uzbekistan are assured, and the government will provide all support to domestic companies wishing to invest in the Central Asian country.

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó. Photo: MTI/Kovács Tamás

Above all, the minister stressed that despite the distance of 4,000 kilometers, there is a strategic partnership between the two countries. He underlined that for two states so far apart, governments need to create seven important conditions for cooperation between economic operators, and in this case all these conditions are now in place.

The seven conditions are: no open political issues, a personal presence, a flagship project, appropriate legal and financial conditions, infrastructure conditions, and the possibility of physical connectivity.

Hungary has had an embassy in Tashkent since 2016, and now Uzbekistan has opened a diplomatic mission in Budapest. The Hungarian Foreign Minister stressed that people-to-people contacts are also well established, as evidenced by the record number of Uzbek students applying for higher education scholarships in Hungary this year (798), 170 of whom will be able to continue their studies in the country from September.

Finally, he pointed out that the success of the economy as a whole is largely determined by the exports and foreign investment opportunities of Hungarian companies.

In order to ensure that the economy can continue to grow, the Hungarian government will provide all existing support to companies that want to invest abroad, and we will especially provide support to Hungarian companies that have such plans in Uzbekistan,”

he concluded.

Uzbekistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia with its neighbors being Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Afghanistan. The country has a territory of 448,978 square kilometers and a population of around 36 million people, most of whom are Muslim. Uzbekistan’s GDP was 69.24 billion USD in 2021, and an upward trend can be seen since 2018.

The country is rich in natural resources, such as coal, copper, gold, natural gas, oil, silver, and uranium. Their main export products are gold, non-retail pure cotton yarn, petroleum gas, and refined copper.

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Featured photo via MTI/Balogh Zoltán

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