July 10, 2010
Uzbekistan-Iran Foreign Relations
Uzbekistan has largely held back from the public debate over Iranian nuclear enrichment and United Nations Security Council resolutions. In May 2006, Uzbek President Islam Karimov argued against military strikes targeting Iran’s nuclear facilities and supported diplomatic methods to resolve the conflict.
In June 2008, Iran’s commercial attaché in Uzbekistan Seyed Mohammad Beheshtian claimed that Iran is Uzbekistan’s sixth largest trading partner and, in February 2008, the Uzbek government valued the two countries’ bilateral trade at $700 million annually. According to a January 2010 statement by Iranian Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari, bilateral trade for 2010 is expected to reach roughly $1 billion.
In July 2008 the two countries held their ninth joint economic, commercial commission. At the commission, the sides called for an expansion of bilateral economic ties, with Uzbek Deputy Minister for Foreign, Economic, and Commercial relations Nasiruddin Najimev noting approvingly that the bilateral "commercial exchange level has increased fivefold from…2000 to 2007.” According to the deputy minister, at the time roughly 117 Iranian investing companies were active in the his country.
In March 2009, during a meeting with Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister Solihbaev Anvar Saidovich, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki suggested that Iran and Uzbekistan should work to improve and expand their bilateral ties. Mottaki stated that "countries [can] complete and improve their programs and capacities through cooperation and using other countries' experiences." 
Tehran hosted the tenth meeting of the joint economic, commercial and industrial commission of Iran and Uzbekistan on January 17-18, 2010. Commerce Minister Ghazanfari stated in a meeting with the Uzbek ambassador, Ilhom Akramov, that the two countries have numerous commonalities and stressed his belief that the meeting would unquestionably help improve trade relations and create new avenues for development. Ghazanfari noted that business relations between the two countries have increased, adding that the combination of Iran’s expertise in hydrocarbons and agricultural and Uzbekistan’s industrial potential can "achieve great advances." Speaking for Uzbekistan, Elyor Ganiev, the country’s deputy prime minister and minister for foreign trade and investment, noted that the expansion of cooperation with Tehran is one of its government’s priorities.
In July 2010, Iranian Minister of Road and Transportation Hamid Behbahani visited Tashkent to hold discussions with First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov as well as Deputy Prime Minister Elyor Ganiyev. On the agenda were transportation-related issues such as cross-border trucking, as well as the wider issue of customs tariffs.
Uzbekistan’s political and military cooperation with Iran has been limited, partly due to the former’s history of positive relations with the United States. Uzbekistan has been a recipient of US technical and financial assistance since its independence in 1991. In July 1994 Uzbekistan joined the NATO Partnership for Peace program and in March 2002 it signed the US-Uzbek Declaration on the Strategic Partnership and Cooperation Framework. The Strategic Framework Agreement provides for military, diplomatic, and economic cooperation between the two countries. US relations notwithstanding, Iran and Uzbekistan are both members of the Economic Cooperation Organization—a trade bloc founded by Iran, Pakistan, and Turkey— and Uzbekistan is a member and Iran an observer of the Russia-China dominated Shanghai Cooperation Organization.
In a March 2009 meeting with Uzbek Deputy Foreign Minister Solihbaev Anvar Saidovich, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki claimed that “the western countries have created more concern in central and western Asia due to their improper approaches towards fighting drugs and extremism."
During an April 2010 meeting with Uzbekistan’s ambassador to Iran, Ilham Akramov, Iranian First Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi encouraged the expansion of Iran-Uzbekistan ties, though he lamented that political and diplomatic relations between the two countries have not matched the high level of bilateral economic interaction. In response to Rahimi’s praise for Iranian railroad projects in the region, Akramov urged greater cooperation in transportation.
Iran has expressed its willingness to help mediate to ease tensions between Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. The offer came during Iranian Defense Minister Ahmad Vahidi’s May 2010 visit to Uzbekistan. Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have been in continuous conflict over the former’s Roghun hydroelectric project, which Uzbekistan—a major exporter of cotton— claims diverts needed water from the country. The minister also urged the two sides to work to improve bilateral relations.
In June 2010, the Iranian state railroad threatened to halt all Turkmen rail freight transiting the Islamic Republic en route to Uzbekistan, unless Tashkent allows rail cars bound for Tajikistan to pass through its territory without delay. According to the Uzbek railroad’s Andrey Tropin, Uzbekistan is holding over 2,000 Tajik freight cars. For several months prior to the ultimatum—which could affect as many as 150 freight cars per day—Uzbekistan had been delaying the passage of the Iranian cargo due to its opposition to Tajikistan’s construction (with extensive Iranian assistance) of the Sangtuda-2 dam.