Photo’s source:; The official welcoming ceremony of the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat MIRZIYOYEV to the President of the Islamic Republic of Iran Ebrahim RAISI was held in the Congress Centre building of the Samarkand Silk Road Tourism Complex.


In December 1991, Iran was among the first countries to recognize Uzbekistan, and diplomatic relations between the two sides were established in May 1992.[1] Despite some official meetings between the two sides, due variables, such as different political system, skepticism towards Iran, fear of political Islam, fear of the Iranian influence in the region, presence of Tajiks in Uzbekistan, lack of common borders, the intensification of Western pressure on Tehran, international sanctions and the role of foreign actors, the relations between Iran and Uzbekistan during two and a half decades did not progress. In fact, until 2016, the two sides’ relations did not experience a favorable and high level.

Approaches from both sides

After Shavkat MIRZIYOYEV came to power in Uzbekistan, little by little, the policy of “de-escalation approach”, “open door policy”, and “creating a balance with regional powers” was put on the country’s foreign policy agenda.

Therefore, the atmosphere of relations with Iran also changed and the relations were on the path of improvement. It was important to witness the expansion of the meetings, visit of the Chabahar port, activate the Joint Economic Commission, transit agreements, and Uzbekistan’s readiness to join the Chabahar Agreement project.

In recent years, in line with Tashkent’s efforts to achieve a superior geo-economic status and regional hegemony in Central Asia, the development of relations with its neighbors[2] including Iran has received more attention.

Following the beginning of Ebrahim RAISI’s presidency in 2021, his emphasis on “neighborhood policy” and “economic diplomacy” created the conditions for the development of relations between Tehran and Tashkent. Iran’s regionalism policy plays an important role in relations with Central Asian countries.[3] As part of the “Look East” policy, Iran considered the development of relations with its Asian neighbors a priority in its foreign policy.

In the view of the Iranian Foreign Minister,[4] looking at the neighbors and looking at Asia and interacting with the countries of this region is the first priority.

In Central Asia, Uzbekistan is perhaps the most central country in the region in terms of its geopolitical and demographic position.

More attention to priorities such as dealing with sanctions and threats, expansion of influence, and diversity in foreign policy have been more motivations for Tehran’s approach regarding Uzbekistan. Also, balancing the regional foreign policy and avoiding being “Middle East oriented”[5], strengthening Central Asia to revive Iran’s cultural and civilization sphere was also considered by Tehran.

Geopolitical and political cooperation

Previously, geopolitical factors, such as the lack of a common border, relations between Dushanbe and Tashkent and the role of foreign actors had caused the two countries not to have stronger relations.

Undoubtedly, with the expansion of relations between Dushanbe and Tashkent, Tashkent’s negative view of relations with Iran also changed.

Some factors and variables, such as security crises and terrorism, lack of necessary infrastructure, geopolitical competition between powers, etc., have forced Uzbekistan and Iran to take measures to balance relations.

The President of Iran visited Uzbekistan in September 2022, and Shavkat MIRZIYOYEV, the President of Uzbekistan, visited Tehran in June 2023 (the first visit of the president of this country to Iran in more than 20 years).

During this visit, a joint statement on strengthening cooperation and several other bilateral documents were signed, and the interactions increased to a new level of “comprehensive cooperation”[6].

Even the leader of Iran, while expressing his satisfaction with the revival of relations between the two countries, added[7] that we hope that the trip and talks held in Tehran will be the beginning of a better future in the relations between the two countries.

Apart from the 18 cooperation agreements and memorandums signed last year, the seventh round of political consultation between the two Asian countries in February 2024 in Tashkent, the expansion of consultation between officials, regular political consultation to accelerate cooperation in various fields, increasing the role of parliamentary friendship groups[8], Iran and Uzbekistan enhanced the level of political relations.

Uzbekistan can become a connecting link in the convergence of Iran with Central Asia and even more unification of Russia, China, and Iran.

Apart from Uzbekistan’s previous support for Iran’s full membership in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), the joint membership of Iran and Uzbekistan in the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO), the Shanghai Pact, increased attention to trilateral cooperation between India-Iran-Uzbekistan,[9] and the expansion of cooperation within the framework of regional and international organizations such as the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations can indicate new platforms of multilateral, international and geopolitical cooperation.

Security cooperation

In recent years, there have been constant political and security consultations between the Iranian and Uzbek authorities regarding the developments in Afghanistan and the type of confrontation with the Taliban government.

Common problems, such as the non-pervasiveness of the Taliban, instability, and widespread insecurity have annoyed Iran and Uzbekistan.

In addition to discussing Afghanistan and joint efforts in the fight against terrorism, drug trafficking, cyber terrorism, and human trafficking, Iran and Uzbekistan signed a joint document on security cooperation in March 2022.[10]

The risk of the Islamic State – Khorasan (ISIK) gaining power in Afghanistan, the issue of terrorism, the growth of extremist and takfiri groups and the risk of other actors using terrorist groups, as common concerns of Tehran and Tashkent, have been a platform for paying attention to appropriate cooperation in the field of security.

Establishing cooperation in political and security fields, exchange of security information, cooperation in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking, and exchange of opinions on regional issues remain under the two sides’ consideration.

In addition, with the end of the UN Security Council arms embargo against Iran in October 2020,[11] Iran can see Uzbekistan as a market for its defense exports.

Cultural relations

Parts of Uzbekistan, such as Bukhara and Samarkand or 25-30% of the country are Tajik. In Iran’s relations with countries like Uzbekistan, common cultural-civilizational identity, as well as the presence of ancient Iranian culture and civilization in Uzbekistan, the presence of the Iranian empires, and close historical, cultural, and civilizational ties are important.

Tehran’s December 2023 decision to cancel the tourist visa regime for Uzbek citizens[12] to expand tourism is also a significant step.

The main role of transit

To implement its strategic goal of economic development and diversification of communications with other regions, Uzbekistan needs to adjust and expand transit routes.

Uzbekistan as a country deemed Doubled Landlocked Country is paying special attention to participation and playing a role in transit projects and communication corridors, such as the Belt and Road Initiative, the North-South Corridor, as well as the Afghanistan-Iran-Uzbekistan transit project through the Chabahar port. Therefore, the southern ports of Iran, especially the ports of Chabahar and Bandar Abbas, are strategic for Uzbekistan, and the priority in relations with Iran in the economic sectors, are transportation and using such capacities.

Uzbekistan’s request to join the Chabahar Agreement has been accepted (2022) and the purchase of one of the terminals of Chabahar Port is also discussed[13]. After Russia’s war with Ukraine and Iran’s role in the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC), many actors, such as India and Russia support the expansion of transit projects between Iran and Central Asian countries. Uzbekistan’s positive view of the North-South Corridor is also important.

New platforms for economic cooperation

Joint consortia providing strategic goods and the plan to transfer fertile lands of Uzbekistan for joint exploitations[14] can help the food security of both sides.

In September 2022, agreements were concluded in fields, such as energy.[15] Cooperation in the field of export and swap of oil and gas, electricity, minerals, and agricultural products is under consideration. Recently,[16] electricity exchanges between Iran and Uzbekistan through Turkmenistan, the construction of thermal and hydroelectric power plants, and the use of technical and engineering services have been proposed to develop relations between the two countries.

Iran and Uzbekistan are rich countries in terms of underground resources and mines. Engineering technical services, mining, and animal husbandry are among the joint investment opportunities.[17]

Uzbekistan is in the first stage of economic growth, and Tashkent previously welcomed the presence of Iranian investors and engineering companies. Agreements are to be signed[18] on the implementation of several investment projects in Iran.

In 2022, 105 new Iranian companies are registered and about 397 companies with Iranian investment operate in Uzbekistan.[19]

In the past year, we have witnessed the trip of prominent officials to each other’s countries. The preferential trade agreement, transportation and transit, pharmaceutical cooperation, cooperation program in the fields of standards and insurance, investigation of the possibility of creating joint free zones, the executive program of cooperation in the field of technology and innovation, and executive program of cooperation in the agricultural sector, among the axes of the documents signed in the presence of presidents of Iran and Uzbekistan.[20]

Moreover, the executive document of the preferential trade agreement including preferential tariffs for 350 export items of the two countries was recently signed.[21]

In the past year, exchange of experience in fields such as innovation, artificial intelligence, nanotechnology,[22] cybernetics and cooperation in technology transfer, pharmaceuticals, insurance, agriculture, the establishment of Iran Innovation and Technology House in Tashkent (IHITT),[23] memorandum of understanding on dispute resolution and arbitration, increase of flights and increase of tourist exchange, creation of mutually beneficial cooperation between free zones[24] have been platforms for the expansion of economic cooperation.

Apart from holding the 15th meeting of the Joint Commission of Cooperation and Business Forum in Tehran plans such as the Iran-Uzbekistan Cooperation Club, the establishment of the Iran-Uzbekistan joint investment fund, and the industrial committee among industrialists are proposed.[25]

Mutual trade has a steady upward trend and reached roughly $435 million by the end of 2022. According to the Iran Chamber of Commerce[26], the trade volume between Iran and Uzbekistan reached 370 million dollars in the first 10 months of 1402 (last Iranian year/2023-2024). However, for the goal of 3 billion dollars,[27] several joint action programs are considered by both sides.

Challenges and prospects

The biggest obstacle to economic trade and even the expansion of political relations is still the political pressure by external actors and the US sanctions. Therefore, reducing the tension between Iran and America will also benefit the government of Tashkent. Moreover, Iran’s trade is not impressive compared to other competitors. Tehran also evaluates Uzbekistan’s participation in NATO’s Partnership[28] for Peace program as negative.

Weakness in rail transportation between the two countries, lack of direct flights and high customs tariffs, uncertainty of policies, extensive presence of the government in the economy, internal economic challenges of the countries, and lack of electric railway to Chabahar port are among the challenges facing the development of relations.

The most important economic opportunity for Iran and Uzbekistan is represented by the communication and transit corridors of Mazar-e-Sharif-Herat, Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran-Oman, and China-Kazakhstan-Uzbekistan-Turkmenistan-Iran.

Approaches such as launching the Iran-Uzbekistan passenger train, completing the construction of the Chabahar-Zahedan railway; enhancing transport relations with Iran, using the common corridors of “Central Asia – Persian Gulf”, construction of the China-Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan railway, and business in the agricultural sector will lead to the development of cooperation.[29]

It seems that strengthening the activities of the joint commission, solving bank transfer problems, increasing the number of direct flights, eliminating visas for Iranian nationals, joint investment, and cooperation in the fields of energy, petrochemicals, and mining are useful in strengthening all-round communication.

Multilateral cooperation in the Eurasian Economic Union and ECO, the “New Uzbekistan Development Strategy for 2022-2026”[30] and Iran’s intention to expand trade with five Central Asian countries contribute to deeper geopolitical and economic relations. However, the geopolitical intention and goals of Tehran and Tashkent in strengthening security, political, and international relations will cause strategic relations to move forward with a gentle slope.
































Disclaimer. The views and opinions expressed in this analysis are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of MEPEI. Any content provided by our authors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organization, company, individual, or anyone or anything.

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About the author:

Dr. Farzad Ramezani Bonesh

Dr. Farzad Ramezani Bonesh is a writer, senior researcher, and analyst focusing on the Middle East and South Asia. He has written research articles, short analyses, and journalistic pieces in both Persian and English. He has also appeared on international outlets such as Al-Jazeera, RT, and Al-Araby among many others.

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