A fresh wind blows through the steppes

A fresh wind blows through the steppes

Uzbekistan’s historic power has not been replicated in the modern era. Source: Eurasia Times

Uzbekistan’s caretaker president, Shavkat Mirziyaev, is improving relations in Central Asia. Since taking power in September he has refreshed ties with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

The late president Islam Karimov was seen as an obstacle to regional integration. Uzbekistan borders all the other Central Asian states and shares a 160km border with Afghanistan.

Domestically, Mirziyoyev is pledging to build homes, improve provision of household electricity and gas and create a more efficient transport system.

Internationally, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have probably had the worst bilateral relationship in Central Asia. All Tajik railway traffic must travel through Uzbekistan and is occasionally held up or turned back. Construction materials for Tajikistan’s hydropower plants are a particularly target. Both countries have convicted their own nationals on charges of spying for the other country.

Tajikistan’s president, Emomali Rahmon, attended Karimov’s funeral in Samarkand on September 3 and met Mirziyaev. Tajikistan’s plans to build the Roghun hydropower plant have been a major sticking point in relations between the countries.

Komilov travelled to Tajikistan on September 29 to meet Rahmon to discuss renewing rail and air links, and boosting economic ties. Flights between Tashkent and Dushanbe were suspended in 1992 and bilateral trade last year was a feeble US$10 million, itself a 50-per-cent increase on 2014.

Komilov spoke about mutually advantageous solutions to water and energy problems and told Tajik television it was time to renew “long-interrupted” relations.

Ties with Turkmenistan warmed after its dictatorial president, Saparmurat Niyazov, died in 2006, and tensions between Karimov and the Kazakh president Nursultan Nazarbaev had begun to ease.

When Mirziyaev took power on September 8, the Uzbek authorities had been occupying a hill in Kyrgyzstan, Ungar-Too, and were holding four Kyrgyz who had been working at the television relay station at the site.

On September 9, the four Kyrgyz TV staff were released.

On September 20, Uzbekistan left Ungar-Too and Uzdaily.uz reported that a working group from both countries had been reviewing border demarcation at 23 disputed sites.

On October 1, a government delegation from Kyrgyzstan visited the eastern Uzbek city of Andijon for Uzbek-Kyrgyz friendship ceremonies.

On September 30, Uzbek website Podrobno.uz said an Uzbek-Kazakh border demarcation meeting had taken been held in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

Mirziyaev is almost certain to be elected president in the December 4 election and he might bring Uzbekistan out of its isolation and help it become a productive regional partner.

Turkmenistan went through a similar process when the current president, Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov, took over after Niyazov’s death. Turkmenistan improved its relations with all its Central Asian neighbours, including Uzbekistan, although Niyazov had accused Tashkent of attempting to assassinate him.

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