Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Turkmen Leader to Visit Uzbekistan

President Gurbanguly Berdymuhammedov will pay his second visit to Uzbekistan on February 24-25, marking a further effort to improve what has been a troubled relationship in recent years.

The late Turkmen president Saparmurat Niazov accused Tashkent of complicity in an assassination attempt in late 2002, and expelled the Uzbek ambassador.

For several years, relations between these neighbouring states were frosty. It became hard for Uzbek and Turkmen diasporas living on the wrong side of the long frontier between the two countries to communicate, and cross-border trade ground to a halt.

Ethnic Uzbeks living in Turkmenistan suffered persecution, and many were prevented from taking out Turkmen citizenship.

The relationship began improving after Niazov died in December 2006 and Berdymuhammedov was elected to replace him. Berdymuhammedov’s first visit to Uzbekistan was in March 2008.

Commentators in Turkmenistan believe the president’s talks with his Uzbek counterpart Islam Karimov will focus less on the bilateral relationship and more on the pragmatic business of regional energy projects.

“Berdymuhammedov and Karimov have more important things to discuss,” said an observer in Ashgabat.

Both Tashkent and Ashgabat are involved in the construction of the pipeline which will take Turkmen gas to China, partly through Uzbek territory.