On 3 December 2014 the British-Uzbek Society held its annual Christmas New Year meeting at The Travellers Club, with the support of the Uzbekistan Embassy in London and Worley Parsons.
In my speech, as the Ambassador of Uzbekistan, I said that in recent years the Embassy and the British-Uzbek Society jointly organised a number of events that contributed to closer cultural and educational ties between Uzbekistan and the UK. Among them I mentioned the Navruz Spring celebrations in London and Cambridge, art and photographic exhibitions, film shows, investment and ecological conferences, as well as charity auctions. I welcomed the fact that the number of Society members had significantly increased and thanked the leadership, the Executive Committee and the Youth Division of the Society for their continuous support and partnership.
As the event took place on the eve of the twenty-second anniversary of Uzbekistan’s Constitution (8 December 2014), I went on to stress that the Constitution laid the basis for large-scale reform, aimed at building a democratic state with a socially oriented market economy and a strong civil society. I highlighted important changes introduced to the Constitution earlier this year, which should strengthen the role of the Oliy Majlis (Parliament) and political parties in the country. These changes increased the importance of the elections to the Legislative Chamber of Oliy Majlis, which took place on 21 December 2014.
Chairman of the British-Uzbek Society Dr Hartley Booth OBE conveyed his congratulations to the President and the people of Uzbekistan on the occasion of their Constitution Day. He stressed that the Society, which was established 12 years ago, has in its constitution a desire and ambition to build bridges in the fields of culture, tourism and education between the British and Uzbek people. The relationship between the people of Europe and Uzbekistan has deep historical roots, going back to the time of Alexander the Great, Marco Polo, Ruy Gonzales de Clavijo, as well as the first diplomatic correspondence between Amir Temur and the King of England Henry IV.
Chairman of the Travellers Club, Rt Hon Sir John Wheeler, then spoke about the history of the Club that was founded in 1819 with the active participation of the First Duke of Wellington. He congratulated Uzbekistan on the remarkable progress made during its years of independence, noting the country’s achievements in the economic area, in particular the current GDP growth at 8.5 per cent, which is far better than the growth of economies of the European Union countries.
Sir John also welcomed the steady development of democracy in Uzbekistan. Meantime, he recalled that the democratic system of the UK, including the Parliament, has been forming and improving over its 800-plus year history before reaching its current shape. He drew attention to the recent changes to Uzbekistan’s Constitution, in which prime-ministerial candidates will be nominated by the largest party in parliament, stating that this could be used as an illustration of how democracy and parliamentary institutions grow.
In her remarks, Baroness Sayeeda Warsi warmly recalled recent years when as a Senior Minister of State at the FCO, she was responsible for developing relations with Uzbekistan and other countries of the region. Baroness Warsi said that Uzbekistan has always had exceptional meaning for her personally, because she grew up on the stories of Imam al-Bukhari, was fond of the history of Samarkand and Bukhara, and some of her ancestors were born and lived in Central Asia. She was delighted to visit Tashkent and several regions of Uzbekistan, allowing her to take a closer look at the heritage, culture and traditions of the Uzbek people. All this created a positive background and atmosphere for political negotiations in Tashkent. “Working at the Foreign Office I realised that when diplomacy is based on genuine mutual respect and understanding of each other, it can achieve amazing results.”
At the end of the meeting, guests who included President of the British-Uzbek Society Lord Fred Ponsonby, enjoyed singing Christmas carols, and continued to further bonds between Britain and Central Asia.