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UZBEKISTAN


 

 

In-depth Business Intelligence

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 9,949 9,713 11,300 91
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 420 450 550 173
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (date from the World Bank)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km) 
447,400 

Population 
26,410,416

Principal 
ethnic groups 
Uzbeks 71.4%
Russians 8.3%
Tajiks 4.7%
Kazaks 4.1%

Capital 
Tashkent 

Currency 
Uzbek Sum

President 
Islam Karimov


Update No: 297- (29/09/05)

Defendants express guilt in Uzbek uprising
The Karimov regime is predictably resorting to show-trials in the wake of the May massacre in Andijan in the eastern Ferghana Valley. It is after all a Stalinist set-up, with a KGB thug of the worst type in power, Islam Karimov, former communist boss of the benighted republic.
Defendants accused of launching a revolt to bring Islamic rule to Uzbekistan reiterated their guilty plea on September 22nd, at the same time denying claims by human rights groups that their confessions had been coerced. On the third day of what have appeared to be carefully rehearsed hearings in the trial of 15 men, the defendants also echoed prosecutors' contentions that Western journalists and rights activists had encouraged the rebellion.
One defendant emotionally denied rights groups' allegations that the defendants were tortured to ensure they testified correctly. "Despite all the slander of journalists and rights activists, I was stunned at how well they treated me," businessman Azizbek Yusupov testified.
Yusupov and 14 others pleaded guilty to participating in an uprising, which erupted when militants seized a prison and freed 23 businessmen who had been on trial for alleged Islamic extremism.
The suppression of the demonstrations in the eastern city of Andijan in May badly damaged Uzbekistan's relations with the West. President Islam Karimov rejected calls for an international investigation after rights groups said more than 700 people were killed. The Karimov regime, which has ruled for 16 years, has put the death toll at 187.
Uzbek rights activist Surat Ikramov said that he believed the defendants were forced to confess under torture. Western human rights groups also released reports alleging that Uzbek police had coerced people to confess membership in extremist groups.
The authoritarian regime in the former Soviet republic hopes the trial will refute accusations that government troops fired on protesters and support its version of an extremist Islamic uprising encouraged from abroad.
Yusupov, like three other defendants before him, alleged that Western journalists had urged the businessmen's associates to escalate protests against their trial. They urged that "we had better rise as people in Ukraine and Georgia did," said Yusupov, who was wounded by soldiers guarding the Andijan airport on the day of the uprising.
Defendant Abdulkhafiz Gaziyev said he had undergone training with other militants in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.
Another defendant, Khusan Turobov, testified that the militants, not troops, had fired first during the protests. Another of the accused, Alisher Khakimov, said he opened fire at a police car, sending it smashing into a wall and killing a police officer.

Military exercises with Russia timely for Tashkent
Recent events suit Moscow down to the ground. It can hope to recuperate its influence in the central republic of central Asia. It made no protest of course about the May massacre at all. Tashkent's decision to ask the US to vacate the Karsi-Khanabad base on the Uzbek-Afghan border must be extremely gratifying to the Kremlin hard-liners.
The US had made the cardinal sin of flying Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan to Romania. The big payoff for Moscow, indeed, is the departure of US troops from Uzbekistan, which removes a strategic thorn from Russia's southern flank. 
Russia and Uzbekistan were engaged in joint military exercises in late September, the first the two countries have ever held. Such an event was unthinkable just a few years ago, but ties between the two countries have been warming. And though the exercises were already being planned last year, analysts say they could not come at a better time for Russia and Uzbekistan have participated in multinational exercises alongside troops from other nations, but never had they engaged in military exercises involving just the two of them. The current operations began on September 19 and ran through September 24. 
Alex Vatanka, the Eurasia editor of the London-based Jane's Country Risk, told RFE/RL the significance of the event is not the exercises themselves. "It's pretty significant politically, but from a military point of view these exercises are on a fairly limited scale," he said. "This is not seriously going to improve the Uzbek capability or teach the Russians particularly anything useful, but it is a very important political gesture." 
Indeed, the two countries have not enjoyed the best of relations. But recently, their ties have grown warmer, due in part to the international uproar over alleged Uzbek human rights abuses and the presence of US troops in Central Asia -- a fact Russia clearly has never welcomed. 
Gregory Gleason of the University of New Mexico specializes in Central Asia. He compares the warming relations with the early of days of Uzbek independence after 1991, when Tashkent had both the opportunity and the incentive to part ways with Russia. 
"In the early years of the Boris Yeltsin administration, the first minister of foreign affairs, Andrei Kozyrev, saw the region of Central Asia as a region of minimal significance to the economic goals of Russia, but also saw the former border of the Soviet Union as the line that defined the sphere of influence of Moscow in the region," Gleason told RFE/RL. "And as a consequence, Moscow continued to think of Central Asia as an area that was under the control, basically, of Russian foreign policy." 
Gleason said Tashkent quickly showed its resistance to Russian influence on its soil, adding that one problem "was the emphasis that [President Islam] Karimov had upon the reassertion of Uzbek national rights, and some of that resulted very clearly in that early period in the elimination of Russian culture from the region." 
The situation grew so bad that then Foreign Minister Kozyrev said in 1995 that Moscow was prepared to use force to protect ethnic Russians abroad. Though Uzbekistan was not specifically mentioned, Tashkent bristled at the comment. 
Russian media also hammered away at the situation in Uzbekistan. In response, Tashkent cut off most Russian media to Uzbekistan. A journalist for Russia's Interfax news agency in Uzbekistan turned up dead in a Tashkent canal. The media war spilled over into other areas of bilateral relations. 
"The gradual reduction of the availability of those materials [newspapers, magazines, and television and radio broadcasts] was very apparent in Moscow and much criticized by Moscow and the Russian media analysts and journalists," Gleason said. "And this resulted in a cooling of relations between the Karimov government and the Russian government, and that was reflected as well in a reduction of trade." 
Karimov objected to Russia's military in neighbouring countries and criticized their leaders, saying no nation whose security depended on foreign forces was truly independent. 
Moscow and Tashkent were alternately allies and competitors during the 1992-97 Tajik civil war. Each helped the Tajik government fight the mainly Islamic opposition, but each had their own idea about how peacetime Tajikistan should look. Any cooperation between Uzbekistan and Russia was gone months before the Tajik peace accord was signed in June 1997. 
Vatanka said by the end of the 1990s, Karimov saw Russia as a competitor in a region he wanted Uzbekistan to dominate. "We know for a long time President Karimov was, if anything, very suspicious of the Russians," he noted. "Only a few years ago, if we go back to 1998 or 1999, there were Uzbek accusations that the Russians were involved in incitement in Uzbekistan to get rid of the regime of Karimov." 
Vatanka and Gleason agree that Uzbek-Russian ties have improved since Vladimir Putin became Russia's president. Putin's first foreign visit after being elected in 2000 was to Uzbekistan. He has since been back twice on state visits. In comparison, Yeltsin made one state visit and had to cut that short when he fell ill in Tashkent. 
The joint military exercises were announced last year, but for the Uzbek government, holding them now has been fortunate timing. Violence in May in the eastern city of Andijon, where hundreds were reportedly killed in clashes between protesters and troops, and Tashkent's refusal to allow an international investigation into the incident have strained Tashkent's relations with several governments, including Washington. 
In July, Tashkent told the US military to vacate the base in Khanabad that the US-led coalition forces had used for operations in Afghanistan since 2001. 
Throughout Tashkent's diplomatic crisis over Andijon, Russia has backed the Uzbek government. Vatanka noted that support comes at little cost to Russia but promises rewards. "As far as Russia's concerned, right now at least was fairly convenient for the Russians to kind of help the Karimov regime out when the hammer fell on Tashkent following Andijon," he told RFE/RL. "So it was a desperate situation for Uzbekistan where Russia was willing to reach out. The political, economic and military costs for Russia have been very limited, and yet the prize that it [Russia] could reap was obviously fairly high." 
But Vatanka said both Tashkent and Moscow share other concerns. Both are worried, he said, about what they see as US-backed "coloured revolutions" that have occurred in three nations -- Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan -- of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). And both Russia and Uzbekistan have suffered more acts of terrorism than any other CIS countries.

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FOREIGN ECONOMIC COOPERATION

Iran, Uzbekistan sign economic MoU 


Iran and Uzbekistan recently signed a memorandum of understanding on expansion of economic cooperation in various fields, reported Interfax News Agency.
The MoU was signed by head of the chamber of commerce of this central province, Saeed Gorgbandi, and visiting Uzbekistan's deputy chairman of the chamber of commerce and industries, Nabijon Kasymov. Kasymov was on a three day visit to Iran. Under the terms of the MoU, both sides expressed willingness to exchange trade and executive delegations, promote joint venture, hold specialised exhibitions of the potentials of Markazi province in Tashkent and support the private sector to bolster trade and economic relations. 
Kasymov said the province enjoys great potential in various areas of industry, agriculture, horticulture, animal husbandry and electronic equipment. During the visit, Uzbek tradesmen and industrialists inspected factories and industries in the cities of Arak and Saveh. 
JOINT VENTURES

Uzbekistan launches two textile JVs for 24m Euro 

Uzbekistan has launched two textile joint ventures for a total cost of 23.7m Euro, a source in the state-run joint stock company Uzbeklegprom said recently, Interfax News Agency reported. 
The two ventures are the Uzbek-Turkish AiDemir textile, in Tashkent, and the Uzbek-US-Turkish Turtkultex, in Karakalpakistan. AiDemir Textile has a projected capacity of five million knitwear products a year and the cost of the project is 8.5m Euro. Sock production is also planned to begin at the plant in the future which is expected to have a capacity of approximately 9,500 million socks a year. An additional eight million Euro in investments is needed for this. Turtkultex will produce 3,500 tonnes of stockinet products and 10 million pieces of knitwear a year. The cost of the project is 15.2m Euro. The source also said that another four textile joint ventures will be launched in Tashkent and Tashkent region for a total cost of 44.2m Euro.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

China Mobile to buy stake in Uzbekistan Telecom

China Mobile, the world's largest mobile operator, in terms of subscribers, plans to acquire a stake in Uzbekistan Telecom, which is owned by the Uzbek government, New Europe reported recently. 
This decision reflects a growing desire of Chinese telecom operators to expand business overseas following the success story of telecom equipment makers Huawei Technologies and ZTE Corp in the overseas market. 
China Mobile executives paid a visit to Uzbekistan recently and discussed the possible acquisition with Uzbekistan and the country's regulators, according to China's embassy in Uzbekistan. Last year Uzbekistan regulators announced plans to sell a 49% to 64.2% stake of Uzbekistan Telecom to foreign investors. In March, the Uzbek government began inviting global tenders, but have yet to make a decision on tender offerings. China Mobile representatives were not available for comment. Chen Jinqiao, a researcher of the China academy of telecommunications research under the ministry of information industry, said Chinese carriers are "starting to have a global view" of their operations. In the past, Chinese operators, especially China Mobile have been focusing on the home front due to their market dominance and the huge size of the domestic market.

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