Enjoying good relations with a Muslim state: Uzbekistan and Israel

Israeli Dr. Mazover examines an Uzbek patient (Photo courtesy Israel Embassy, Tashkent)

On average, ambassadors to any country retain their post for two to four years. However, Uzbekistan’s Ambassador to Israel, Oybek Eshonov, has been in his diplomatic position since 2008.

This is all the more surprising considering Uzbekistan has a majority population of Muslims.

“I represent a Muslim country – but one that is friendly to Israel,” Eshonov told The Jerusalem Post.  “Uzbekistan is a secular country in which no distinctions are made between people of different faiths, race or ideology.”

As KNI recently reported, Israel has been working to restore its relationships with Muslim countries in Africa that have hitherto bowed to Arab nations’ agendas.The good and enduring relationship with Uzbekistan in Central Asia is in keeping with the development of stronger connections between the Jewish state and Muslim countries. Israeli has full diplomatic relations with five other non-Arab Muslim states in Asia: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Uzbekistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan, declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, and Israel was one of the first countries to recognize the new state. Israel opened an embassy in the Uzbek capital Tashkent in 1992. Uzbekistan has its Israel embassy in Tel Aviv

Referring to what he has seen of Israel’s developmental progress during his tenure here, Eshonov has said, “We would like to be like [Israel].”

Indeed, Uzbek medical staff, entrepreneurs and agriculturalists have been receiving training from Mashav, Israel’s Agency for International Development Cooperation.

Uzbekistan imports Israeli technology and medical equipment and exports textiles and chemicals to Israel. While this is positive, Eshonov has said that bilateral trade between the two countries could be better – and he is seeking ways to encourage this.

In regards to the field of medicine, Israel has built a medical center in Tashkent, and this is also staffed by Israeli doctors. Patients from the center are sometimes referred to hospitals in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

“We have good hospitals and medical equipment, but Israel is the best,” Eshonov said.

As part of a continuing effort to strengthen ties between the two countries, Eshonov is working to encourage Israelis to travel to Uzbekistan for tourism. Points of interest for tourists include rock-climbing and archaeological and historical sites. There are four flights a week from Tel Aviv to Tashkent.

Regarding safety, Jews in Uzbekistan have been largely free from persecution, and there has been a Jewish presence in the country for many centuries.