Iran has proposed to Uzbekistan to conclude an agreement on the abolition visa between the countries, Iranian media reported on October 17.
Minister of ecology, environmental protection and climate change Aziz Abdukhakimov discussed issues of bilateral cooperation with his Iranian counterpart Ezatollah Zarghami in Samarkand on the sidelines of the UN’s World Tourism Organisation’s (UNWTO) General Assembly Summit held at the Silk Road Complex from the 16-20 of October.
Zarghami proposed to cancel the visa regime between the countries, something discussed previously but has yet to move forward.
“When I visited Bukhara, I felt how close these two nations are,” Zarghami said as part of Iran’s efforts to liberalise regional border controls.
“We support the arrival of Uzbek tourists to Iran, and we also believe that Iranian tourists planning to travel abroad should give preference to Uzbekistan,” he added.
Samarkand, Bukhara and Khiva, three ancient Silk Road cities in Uzbekistan form part of the historical empires which spanned what is now Central Asia and Iran. Iran’s historical connections with the cities was significantly weakened following the Russian-Iranian wars in which Iran lost control of regions north of its Khorasan province and the Aras river.
Zarghami also stressed that for the development of mutual tourism, countries need to promote overland travel.
“With Turkmenistan’s cooperation, we should facilitate overland travels to help promote tourism.”
Abdukhakimov, for his part, expressed his hope that their discussions at the meeting would yield “good results” in the future.
To do this, it is proposed to interact with Turkmenistan. The in-between country has been a bone of contention with Iranian officials in recent months as they push to remove border restrictions with Central Asia.
At the UNWTO General Assembly in Samarkand on October 18, Iranian transport officials said to bne IntelliNews that despite constant communication with Turkmenistan over opening access to Central Asia, that the Turkmen government was dragging their feet.
An Iranian businessman said that the country was hoping to open land routes through Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan but faced “several challenges” due to the intransigence of Ashgabat.
On a more upbeat note, an Uzbek counterparts added, “We know about the transport problems, but we are confident that these can be rectified in the next few months.”
In return, Iran is considering reforming the visa regime for citizens of 60 countries, including the unilateral cancellation of visa requirements for Uzbek citizens and potentially other citizens of Central Asia.
In September 2022, Uzbekistan and Iran signed an agreement on simplification of visa procedures for tourists, business representatives and academia.
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