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uzbekistan  

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UZBEKISTAN


 

 

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)

Books on Uzbekistan

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: 310 - (26/10/06)

Unesco award for Karimov 
Human rights groups have strongly criticised the UN's cultural body, Unesco, for giving a prize to Uzbek President Islam Karimov. In a bizarre affair, indeed, Unesco's Director-General, Koichiro Matsuura, presented a cultural heritage award to Mr Karimov when he visited Tashkent in September. 
Karimov has been condemned by the UN itself for a bloody crackdown in May 2005. Just over a year ago, the UN condemned Mr Karimov for staging what it called a "massacre" in the city of Andijan in the Ferghana Valley, where government troops opened fire on demonstrators, killing hundreds of protestors.
More recently, the UN high commissioner for refugees accused the Uzbek government of kidnapping refugees from Andijan who were hiding in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan, and persecuting people connected to the events of last year. 
Rights groups called the Unesco award "scandalous, shocking, absurd and inappropriate". Human Rights Watch, Freedom House and Paris-based Reporters Without Borders have all expressed their concern at the award, which Unesco said was in recognition of Mr Karimov's preserving his country's cultural heritage. 
A Unesco spokesperson told the BBC that the medal was a "gesture of courtesy". According to the Uzbek press, Mr Matsuura also thanked the president for his role in strengthening friendship and cooperation between nations and developing cultural and religious dialogue.

A murderous regime
In fact Uzbekistan is one of the most repressive post-Soviet states. It is not exactly known for its concern for 'cultural and religious dialogue.' The Uzbek government is known rather for absolute intolerance of any sort of opposition. Torture and maltreatment of a vile kind are the 'religious dialogue' with its radical Islamicist victims. There is evidence of people being boiled alive and the like.
Yet Karimov tries to maintain the charade of multiparty democracy by having five state-funded political parties competing for representation in the parliament. The only problem here is that all five are so called "pocket" parties controlled by Karimov, while truly independent political parties have never been able to register.
The result is that the only real opposition comes from the Islamic radicals, the fiercest enemies of Karimov, who is, nevertheless, watering the soil on which they thrive. When there is regime change eventually in Uzbekistan, it would be no surprise if it took a radical Islamicist turn.

Kyrgyz-Uzbek Relations: Harmonious Now, But Trouble Looms
Its next-door neighbour, Kyrgyzstan, has handled things better. It had a sort of revolution eighteen months ago in March 2005, introducing a measure of democracy. 
Despite ideological differences, converging interests have prompted Karimov and his Kyrgyz counterpart, Kurmanbek Bakiyev, to become political best friends They share a strong aversion to radical Islam. But their newfound alliance could prove short-lived. Being neighbours can cause problems. 
Bakiyev travelled to Uzbekistan on October 3rd-4th for talks with Uzbek officials, including Karimov, as well as a little sightseeing in Samarkand. After the talks, Bakiyev indulged in hyperbole as he described the current state of bilateral affairs, speaking of the "eternal friendship" of Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. "Uzbeks and Kyrgyz will never be separated," Bakiyev told Uzbek television on October 4th. "They should live together, as well as grow and develop together." They do of course live together in some profusion, in the crowded towns of the Ferghana valley along with ethnic Tajiks - a hold over from the days of the USSR and its artificial political boundaries. 
While not inclined to make rapturous predictions about future cooperation, Karimov was equally pleased with the outcome of Bakiyev's visit. The Uzbek leader characterized the talks as a "fruitful exchange" taking place within a "trustworthy atmosphere." He called attention to a joint statement that reaffirmed both states' commitment to a 1996 friendship treaty, and hailed the shared commitment to combating Islamic radicalism in Central Asia. With Uzbek assistance, Bakiyev's administration in recent months has cracked down on suspected Islamic radicals, especially in southern Kyrgyzstan. 
Uzbek state media outlets offered an unusually extensive and favourable coverage of Bakiyev's visit. One Uzbek State TV broadcast commented: "For centuries, the people of Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have lived in friendship and agreement, and contributed to each others' culture and art. Today too, the commonness of history, culture and traditions, language and religion continues to serve as a strong foundation for our cooperation." 
The most significant outcome of Bakiyev's trip was a bilateral agreement lifting visa requirements for citizens of both countries for travel between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. In addition, Karimov and Bakiyev agreed to open a new border-crossing point in the Ferghana Valley. For Karimov -- who has tried to seal Uzbekistan off in the hopes of preventing the further penetration of radical Islamic ideology -- opening the frontier to Kyrgyz nationals is the ultimate sign of approval of the Bakiyev administration's efforts to root out militants in southern Kyrgyzstan. 
Citizens of both countries cheered the suspension of visa requirements. Cross-border shuttle trading, a vital source of income for many in frontier areas, has withered due to the Karimov administration's increasingly restrictive policies. Uzbeks and Kyrgyz citizens interviewed expressed hope that visa-free travel will greatly reduce instances of harassment and extortion at the border. Kosimjon Hamrakulov, an Uzbek resident, told EurasiaNet: "I have many relatives in Kyrgyzstan and it makes it easier for us to visit each other." 
Less than 18 months ago, Kyrgyz-Uzbek relations were marked by acrimony generated by Kyrgyzstan's acceptance of refugees who fled Uzbekistan in the aftermath of the Andijan massacre. Bilateral antagonism dissipated, however, with the growth of security cooperation. Domestic political factors played a major role in prompting both Karimov and Bakiyev to set aside previous differences and engage each other. 
Both leaders have seemed eager to shore up outside political support for their respective administrations. Bakiyev has faced considerable pressure throughout 2006 from political rivals in Bishkek. Karimov, meanwhile, remains obsessed with the Islamic radical threat to his administration. He had long viewed southern Kyrgyzstan as a haven for Islamic militants, and was quick to act on the opportunity to work with Kyrgyz leaders to undertake a security sweep of the area. In addition, Karimov's approval of visa-free travel may be designed to relieve the building pressure on the Uzbek economy, which at present is stagnating amid the government's efforts to tighten control over all aspects of Uzbek life. 
In extending an enthusiastic welcome to Bakiyev, Uzbek officials were also seeking to send a message to another neighbour Tajikistan: cooperate with us and you will be rewarded. Uzbek-Tajik relations, chilly since the Islamic radical threat first manifested itself in the late 1990s, have experienced a frost in recent months. 
Kyrgyz-Uzbek ties may be exceedingly harmonious now, but that may not be the case for long. Bakiyev and Karimov, some political analysts point out, avoided discussing the divisive issue of energy supplies. 
Kyrgyz officials had hoped that increased security cooperation with Uzbekistan would secure generous Uzbek export terms for natural gas needed for the fast-approaching winter heating season. Members of the Karimov administration, however, seem disinclined toward such generosity. One Uzbek official who requested anonymity told EurasiaNet: "We should separate political issues from economic issues. Uzbekistan cannot provide gas at reduced prices because it would harm its own economy." 
Uzbekistan intends to supply Kyrgyzstan with gas at US$55 per 1,000 cubic meters (tcm) until the end of this year. But starting in January, the Uzbek government is expected to seek a price of up to US$100/tcm. 
Such a price hike would likely create a domestic crisis in Kyrgyzstan. According to KyrgyzGas, a state company that imports Uzbek gas, Kyrgyzstan's demand is projected to reach 900 million cubic meters of gas in 2007, roughly a 20 percent increase over this year's consumption level. In addition, Kyrgyz Minister of Finance Akylbek Japarov said recently that the country lacks the means to subsidize gas prices for low-income consumers, who constitute a large segment of the Kyrgyz population. Thus, Bakiyev's administration stands to face extreme political pressure from his constituents, if Tashkent raises the export price as expected. 
The potential repercussions would also likely hurt Uzbekistan, as Kyrgyzstan would undoubtedly try to ease a wintertime energy crunch by releasing large volumes of water from reservoirs to generate extra electricity. Downstream areas of Uzbekistan could experience ruinous flooding, and Uzbek farmers could well find themselves without sufficient water for irrigation during the agricultural growing season. 

Tajikistan's ambitious energy projects cause tension with Uzbekistan
Tajikistan's efforts to develop its hydro-power sector and to boost aluminium production are causing a spike in tension with neighbouring Uzbekistan. 
Uzbek authorities have used punitive measures of late to express their displeasure with existing Tajik policies, as well as future plans. For example, Tashkent is continuing to prevent the delivery of Kyrgyz electricity to one of Tajikistan's major industrial concerns, the Tajik Aluminium Plant, located in the southwestern city of Tursunzade. 
On September 28, Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov sent a letter to the Uzbek government seeking to resolve the supply issue. Uzbek authorities curtly informed Oqilov that a response would not be forthcoming before October 9, the Avesta news agency reported. Meanwhile, Uzbekistan cut off natural gas supplies to Tajikistan in late September, and wouldn't re-open the pipeline until Dushanbe repaid almost half of its outstanding US$4.5 million debt for earlier gas deliveries. 
Adding to the bilateral acrimony was a late September incident involving Tajik and Uzbek border guards. Tashkent accused Tajik border guards of opening fire on Uzbek forces "without warning," supposedly to protect a group of Tajik civilians trying to cross the border illegally into Uzbek territory, the AVN-Interfax news agency reported. The Uzbek soldiers were reportedly trying to take the Tajik trespassers into custody when the shooting began near the Khavast border post. The deputy chief of Tajikistan's State Committee for the Protection of the State Border, Lt. Gen Safarali Sayfulloyev, dismissed the Uzbek allegation as "not corresponding to reality," Avesta reported. 
Earlier, Sayfulloyev said Tajik border guards took an Uzbek soldier captive while disrupting an Uzbek effort to unilaterally establish a security buffer zone in a disputed area of the frontier. "This sort of border incident happens very often," Sayfulloyev told Avesta. Only about one-third of the almost 1,000-mile-long Tajik-Uzbek frontier has been demarcated. 
Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have had a contentious relationship for years, driven in large measure by perceptions in Tashkent that Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov's administration was not strong enough to deal adequately with Islamic radicalism, which emerged as a regional threat in the late 1990s. As Central Asia's most populous state, and possessing the region's largest army, Uzbekistan has routinely bullied Tajikistan. But some regional observers believe the dynamic governing bilateral relations could shift significantly if Tajikistan manages to implement its economic development vision. 
Tashkent tends to view Tajik development efforts as a threat to Uzbekistan's leadership role in Central Asia. Water politics has long been a source of regional discord. Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan provide the overwhelming share of the region's water, while Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan are major consumers. An enhanced ability to harness its water reserves would potentially give Tajikistan considerable negotiating leverage in its dealings with Uzbekistan. 
Uzbek officials appear especially concerned over RUSAL's investment in Tajikistan. After the Russian conglomerate announced plans to modernize the Tursunzade aluminum smelter, Uzbekistan initiated a massive media campaign, complaining that effluvia generated by the Tajik plant was causing widespread environmental damage to Uzbek agricultural lands. 
Tajik experts and policymakers believe Uzbekistan's present move to disrupt electricity supplies to the Tursunzade plant is connected with a desire to hinder the facility's modernization. Many in Dushanbe also say Uzbek officials are exerting pressure directly on RUSAL to scale back the company's investment plans. They suggest that Tashkent may be behind a disagreement between Tajikistan and RUSAL over the height and type of the Rogun dam. Immediately following a meeting between RUSAL chief Oleg Deripaska and Uzbek President Islam Karimov, the Russian company revised its dam plans, saying it wanted to build a 280-meter-tall dam, instead of one 335 meters tall as originally projected. 

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ENERGY

Central Asia declares itself a nuclear weapons free zone 


The five countries of Central Asia, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan have signed a treaty creating a nuclear weapons free zone in their lands. Semipalatinsk, the former Soviet nuclear test site in eastern Kazakstan, was the scene for the treaty's historic signing on September 8th, New Europe reported.
Under the treaty, the five countries have committed themselves to ban the production, acquisition and deployment of nuclear weapons and their components. The treaty does not prohibit the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. "This is our contribution to global security," Kazakstan' Foreign Minister, Kasymzhomart Tokayev, said. "It will become an impetus for the coordinated efforts of the world community in non-proliferation and prevention of the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists. It will undoubtedly become an important step in the development of peaceful nuclear energy."  

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