Uzbekistan is opening up its economy and vast mineral resources to China rather than Europe after feeling let down by Western pressure over its human rights record, a top official said Friday.
First Deputy Prime Minister Rustam Azimov said Tashkent was tired of being lectured to by the European Union although it was prepared to work with individual states who showed respect.
"We need a reliable market for our raw materials where no one will make strained political claims," Azimov told a conference in Tashkent including foreign diplomats.
Azimov's comments came after Uzbekistan and China inked deals, including $5 billion worth of investment projects, on trade in strategic materials during President Islam Karimov's visit to Beijing earlier this week.
The deals also envisage the construction of a third line on the existing gas pipeline stretching from Turkmenistan to China through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
While selling China uranium, non-ferrous metals, cotton and gas, Uzbekistan is attracting Chinese high-technology to modernise its ageing energy infrastructure and to build new machinery and chemical plants, Azimov said.
But European Union countries are not offering such projects and instead "there have been attempts to blackmail Uzbekistan by some of them ... trying to use sanctions against us," Azimov said.
Relations with Brussels became strained after the EU imposed sanctions when Uzbekistan refused an independent investigation into the quelling of an armed uprising in Andijan in the east of the country in 2005.
Azimov said Uzbekistan will cooperate not with the "abstract EU as a whole but with certain EU countries that respect Uzbekistan on a bilateral basis.
"The EU has to understand that the age of 'teacher and pupil' has gone now," Azimov said, adding that relations with Germany were a good example of cooperation based on mutual respect.
Source: AFP Asian Edition