Justin Addison, UK Delegation to the OSCE, tells the OSCE’s Economic and Environmental Committee that Russia’s war against Ukraine is harming trade and transport across the region

The concept note for this meeting is right to mention the effect of Russia’s war of aggression on international trade and transport. Russia has chosen this path of international isolation, which has led to the UK and many other nations banning Russian flights and prohibiting the registration of ships owned, controlled, chartered, or operated by persons connected with Russia. These and many other measures have been necessary to restrict an economy fuelling a brutal and unnecessary war against a sovereign neighbour.    

And of course, Russia’s illegal and cynical attacks against Ukrainian civilian transport infrastructure has damaged that country’s economy; another example of the brutality for which Russia will ultimately be held responsible.  

As Russia continues its war of choice, we look to other partners in the region to act as stable and reliable trading partners. Nowhere is this more true than in Central Asia. During his visit to Central Asia last month, our Foreign Secretary reaffirmed the UK’s commitment to the long-term prosperity, sovereignty and independence of the region, and a desire for deeper economic cooperation. 

Trade volumes with the UK have grown substantially in recent years, particularly with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Kyrgyzstan.  

The Trans-Caspian transport route is critical to improving the connectivity of the region, both into Europe and between Central Asian states. For example, the UK and Uzbekistan recently signed an agreement to cooperate on the development of a high-speed rail expansion, from Tashkent to Samarkand. An increase in rail routes will reduce dependencies on the more polluting air freight for trade; and more efficient high-speed railways will reduce emissions. In addition, Uzbekistan produces and exports large amounts of copper, which is integral to numerous renewable energy production and storage processes.  

We are supporting Uzbekistan in WTO trade accession; and signed a Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with Kazakhstan that liberalises trade in services and procurement. 

Mr Chair, it is important for all Central Asian States to have open and thriving markets, with strong economies that deliver for the people there. The UK stands by to continue cooperation with this important region to deliver this.

Published 22 May 2024