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China and Central Asian Countries Hold Inaugural Foreign Ministers' Meeting

On 16 July, China and Central Asian countries held the inaugural foreign ministers' meeting via video link. The meeting was chaired by State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi and attended by Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Chingiz Aidarbekov, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin, Turkmen Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov, and Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov.

Wang highlighted the geographical proximity, friendship and good neighborliness between China and Central Asian countries, and stressed that the Chinese people and people of Central Asia have enjoyed mutual understanding and friendship and stood by each other over the years like brothers and sisters. China started its friendly exchanges with Central Asian countries as early as over 2,100 years ago. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations, China and Central Asian countries have, in the spirit of mutual respect, fairness, justice and win-win cooperation, addressed the boundary issues left from history, built strong political mutual trust, and pursued joint development and prosperity. The two sides have worked together to advance Belt and Road cooperation, combat terrorism, separatism and extremism and cross-border crimes, and build strong people-to-people bonds. Together, China and Central Asian countries have blazed an extraordinary path of cooperation and set a fine example in building a new type of international relations. It is only natural that a collective dialogue platform between China and Central Asian countries is established at this moment.

Wang stressed that it serves the common and fundamental interests of both China and countries in the region to have a Central Asia that enjoys development, stability and prosperity, boasts sound and friendly relations with its neighbors and takes an actively part in international affairs. The Chinese government attaches great importance to developing strategic partnerships with Central Asian countries, and firmly supports their pursuit of development paths suited to their national conditions. At the same time, China is opposed to attempts by external forces to provoke color revolutions and play zero-sum games in the region, and meddle in the internal affairs of Central Asian countries under the pretext of human rights.

Wang said that cooperation between China and Central Asian countries is needed by both sides. Such cooperation does not target any third party, nor does it affect other bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the region. China's policy toward Central Asia is guided by the vision of amity, sincerity, mutual benefit and inclusiveness, and underpinned by the goal of fostering an amicable, secure and prosperous neighborhood through friendship and partnership. China will work with Central Asian countries to enhance political mutual trust and step up cooperation in a joint pursuit of development and prosperity.

Wang proposed four areas of cooperation:

First, work together to overcome COVID-19 and protect people's life and health. China proposes the building of a China-Central Asia community of health and the establishment of a notification mechanism on major communicable diseases to share experience and expertise on prevention and response. China will provide additional medical supplies to Central Asian countries, help train medical and health professionals, set up more centers of traditional Chinese medicine in the region and conduct cooperation on vaccine development. China calls upon Central Asian countries to step up international cooperation against COVID-19, resolutely oppose the attempts of certain countries to stigmatize and put labels on the virus out of selfish interests, and support WHO in playing its due role in global COVID-19 response.

Second, join hands to boost economic recovery and pursue mutually beneficial cooperation. Countries should take active yet prudent measures to facilitate an orderly resumption of work and production, and establish a "fast-track" for personnel exchange and a "green lane" for cargo shipment to ensure the safe and stable functioning of regional industrial and supply chains. Countries need to open their markets to each other at a faster pace, improve business environment and redouble efforts to facilitate trade and investment. To promote regional connectivity, a transportation route running through Central Asia should be gradually put in place. Cross-border e-commerce should also expanded and the development of a digital Silk Road accelerated.

Third, uphold regional security and act on the new vision of security. Following the vision of common, comprehensive, cooperative and sustainable security, China and Central Asian countries are deepening cooperation in fighting terrorism, separatism and extremism. China calls for the early establishment of a cooperation mechanism to protect the safety and security of major Belt and Road projects to ensure the safe and smooth progress of important cross-border infrastructure projects. Peace talks should be encouraged to advance peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.

Fourth, strengthen multilateral coordination and champion fairness and justice. It is important to uphold multilateralism, defend the purposes and principles of the UN Charter, safeguard the UN-centered international system and oppose unilateralism and bullying. Cooperation within multilateral frameworks should be strengthened to promote fairness and justice on the global stage and make international relations more democratic. China and Central Asian countries should render each other firm support regarding sovereignty and security and other core concerns, and jointly uphold basic norms governing international relations and defend the legitimate rights of the six countries.

Wang noted that enhanced cooperation between China and Central Asian countries is a form of mutual assistance between neighbors. It answers the call of the times and benefits both sides and the world beyond. China will take the launch of the foreign ministers' meeting as an opportunity to bring mutual trust and cooperation between the two sides to the next level and usher in a brighter future.

The foreign ministers of Central Asian countries commended China as a close and friendly neighbor, and spoke highly of their strong political trust and ever expanding mutually-beneficial cooperation with China. The five countries supported the establishment of a regular foreign ministers' meeting mechanism and believe it will be an important new platform for deepening strategic partnerships. They praised China's decisive, effective and successful COVID-19 response, calling it a fine example for the world. They appreciated China's assistance and expressed the readiness to work with China to promote international cooperation against COVID-19, support WHO's crucial role and oppose politicization of the issue.

The foreign ministers also supported efforts to synergize China's Belt and Road Initiative and the development strategies of their countries to promote regional connectivity, establish the "fast-track" and "green lane" to facilitate the flows of goods and people, and strengthen cooperation in trade, science and technology, agriculture, digital economy and tourism. The ministers reaffirmed their readiness to strengthen security cooperation, continue their fight against terrorism, separatism, extremism and cross-border crimes, enhance coordination and cooperation in the United Nations, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia and other multilateral mechanisms, and jointly safeguard lasting peace, security and stability in the region.

The meeting adopted and issued the Joint Statement of the Inaugural China-Central Asian Countries Foreign Ministers' Meeting.

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