New Deal in Tajik-Uzbek Relations?

A meeting of an Uzbek-Tajik joint economic commission has been hailed as a breakthrough even though officials remained tight-lipped about the outcome, and only two preliminary documents were signed.

New Deal in Tajik-Uzbek Relations?

A meeting of an Uzbek-Tajik joint economic commission has been hailed as a breakthrough even though officials remained tight-lipped about the outcome, and only two preliminary documents were signed.

Tuesday, 28 April, 2009
Shahodat Saidnazarova reports that the February 18 talks took place over several hours, after which the commission chairman, Uzbek first deputy prime minister Rustam Azimov, told waiting reporters merely that there was “a good result”. The documents signed concerned trade and economic relations and border demarcation.



Analysts believe the meeting marked a significant step forward in a relationship that has been troubled over recent years. It was quite significant that the Uzbeks should come to Dushanbe at all – most meetings take place on their home ground in Tashkent.



Tajikistan gets 90 per cent of its gas from Uzbekistan, and now owes it 16 million US dollars in arrears. Tashkent has cut gas supplies by 50 per cent and last month also stopped Turkmen electricity passing through its national grid to reach Tajikistan.



As a result, only key enterprises, hospitals and schools in Tajikistan have been getting a steady supply of gas and power over the winter. Water levels have fallen in the Nurek reservoir, which provides the water for 80 per cent of the country’s own generating capacity.



Ahead of the joint commission meeting, Uzbekistan’s president Islam Karimov signalled a possible shift in his view of electricity projects in Tajikistan and also Kyrgyzstan, saying his country would be prepared to invest in them if they proved commercially feasible and environmentally sound.



The Uzbeks have consistently opposed new dam projects in both countries, fearing that they would reduce flows down the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, both vital sources of irrigation for their lower-lying lands.



Tajik political analyst Rashidghani Abdullo sees Tashkent’s apparent change of heart as positive.



“It appears that vehement opposition to the efforts by Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to make use of their hydropower potential hasn’t been a success,” he told IWPR. “Tajikistan is already building new power stations… [there is] Sangtuda-1; work on Sangtuda-2 is in full swing; Tajikistan is funding construction of the Rogun power station by itself. And foreigners are gradually getting involved - Iran has invested 150 million dollars.



“So efforts to obstruct this have proved fairly ineffective.”
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