Uzbek president to visit Tajikistan 

Uzbek president to visit Tajikistan 

Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev is expected to visit Tajikistan, the only Central Asian neighbour he has not visited in his first year in charge of the region’s most populous state.

Mirziyoyev said preparations for an official visit were underway and bilateral deals would be signed.

“We will sign a lot of agreements, open railway communication and discuss many other issues,” Mirziyoyev told the press.

It was more difficult to establish cooperation with other states “when the relations with neighbours leaves much to be desired”, he added.

Uzbekistan’s prime minister, Abdulla Aripov, is scheduled to visit Dushanbe to meet Tajik President Emomali Rahmon and Prime Minister Kokhir Rasulzoda ahead of the presidential visit.

Trade and economic cooperation as well as demarcation and delimitation of borders, cooperation on a railway line and the energy sector would reportedly be on the agenda.

After becoming president in late 2016, following the death of veteran bruiser Islam Karimov, Mirziyoyev embraced Uzbekistan’s neighbours. He also made the first visit by an Uzbek president to Turkey in 18 years. The resumption of regular buses between Tashkent and Shymkent in Kazakhstan is one example of improving ties.

And in April 2017, direct flights resumed between Tashkent and Dushanbe for the first time in 25 years.

Uzbek-Tajik relations fell apart quickly after independence from Moscow as Tajikistan fell into civil war and Karimov closed the border to stop the spread of instability. The Tajik civil war ended in 1997 but in 1999, after a series of bombings in Tashkent, Uzbekistan mined the Tajik border. While efforts were made to clear the landmines, up to at least 2009, deaths were reported on the border.

In 2009, Uzbekistan withdrew from the Soviet-era, cross-border power grid, causing trouble in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which both needed to import electricity during the winter.

Kyrgyzstan supplied its southern region with power lines that crossed the Uzbek border and Tajikistan imported electricity from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan. Both imported Uzbek power during the winter.

Winter energy shortages in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan pushed the two countries to develop hydropower projects and find other partners. Tajikistan’s large Rogun dam project sparked complaints about restrictions on water flowing into Uzbekistan, especially for the summer cotton crop.

The bellicose Karimov even suggested water scarcity could spark armed conflict.

Work has recently restarted at Rogun and water could again become a point of tension and the issue will be one of the more sensitive topics discussed, if it is mentioned by either the Uzbek president or prime minister.

 

 

The Nurek Dam in Vakhsh River, Tajikistan. Picture credit: Wikimedia 

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