Xi Jinping signs deals worth US$15b in Uzbekistan
President Xi Jinping and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, signed agreements worth US$15 billion in key sectors, including the exploitation of oil, gas and uranium fields in the Central Asian state.
In the latest stop on Xi's tour of Central Asia, Karimov praised his energy-rich country's growing ties with China which he described as the locomotive of the world economy.
"For all the years of our independent development, China has never linked the provision and expansion of multifaceted bilateral co-operation with any political or other conditions," Karimov told reporters.
The remarks appeared to be a veiled reference to Tashkent's sometimes awkward relations with the West over human rights concerns.
Xi is on a closely-watched four-nation tour of Central Asia that has already seen him sign major energy deals in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. He is due to travel to Kyrgyzstan next.
Beijing has in recent years been ramping up its influence in a region that was once Moscow's playground, seeking new sources of energy for its fast-growing economy.
The two sides also signed a document to make changes to an Uzbekistan-China gas pipeline agreement signed a few years ago. The changes were due to the planned construction of a fourth branch of the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline that runs through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
Since 2002, China has invested more than US$6 billion in the Uzbek economy, and the volume of two-way trade reached US$3.4 billion last year, according to the Uzbek president.
"One of our priorities is to increase the trade turnover between our countries to US$5 billion by 2017," Xi said.
Xi president will also visit the ancient Silk Road town of Samarkand, where a Confucius Institute - China's equivalent to the British Council or the Goethe Institute - is expected to open.
"I have long dreamt of visiting ancient Samarkand ... and it is a great honour for me that President Karimov is accompanying me to his hometown," Xi said.