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S. Korea, Uzbekistan agree to seek new gas, solar power projects

17 June 2014

South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov agreed Tuesday to push for new joint projects in gas development and solar power as the countries seek to deepen and diversify their economic ties.

The agreement came during summit talks between Park and Karimov in the Uzbek capital of Tashkent, the first stop of the South Korean leader's six-day tour of Central Asia, officials said.

The US$4 billion gas project, currently carried out by a consortium of Russian and Uzbek companies, centers on developing the Kandym gas field in the Bukhara region of central Uzbekistan and on building a gas processing plant.

The Kandym field is estimated to hold 150-180 billion cubic meters of gas, of which 8 billion cubic meters is expected to be processed annually through the project.

The solar power project involves the construction of a 100 megawatt solar power plant in Uzbekistan's second-largest city of Samarkand.

The $300 million project is expected to be put up for a bid later this year. If South Korea wins the contract, the country could boost its chances of taking part in a separate project to build a 4 gigawatt solar power plant in Uzbekistan by 2030, officials said.

During their summit, Park and Karimov also exchanged views on projects that are currently under way between the two countries, including the development of the Surgil gas field near the Aral Sea and the construction of a gas-chemical plant, officials said.

The current joint projects are worth a total of $8 billion.

The leaders also agreed to expand and diversify bilateral cooperation beyond the energy sector, according to officials.

New areas of cooperation would include information and communications technology, the environment, textiles, and road and rail construction.

Following the summit, the two leaders signed a joint statement outlining the results of Park's visit.

According to the statement, the two sides agreed to expand and strengthen practical cooperation in trade and investment, as well as science, culture and education.

Uzbekistan also expressed its support for South Korea's foreign policy agenda, such as the "Korean Peninsula trust process," the "Northeast Asia peace and cooperation vision" and the "Eurasia initiative." 

Park proposed the "Eurasia initiative" in October, calling for the construction of more infrastructure and freer trade between Eurasian nations to create what could become a large single market rivaling the European Union.

Park's visits to Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan this week are seen as a step toward realizing that vision.

After the summit, the two countries also signed three agreements and a memorandum of understanding (MOU) calling for further economic cooperation.

Under the agreements, South Korea pledged to provide grants and loans to Uzbekistan to help the Central Asian nation's social and economic development, while the MOU called for establishing a basic framework for investment cooperation.