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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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Update No: 353 - (25/05/10)

A Central Asian dispute with repercussions
A dispute between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan has left hundreds of railway carriages with supplies for NATO troops in Afghanistan stranded in Central Asia.
 
NATO uses Central Asia, an ex-Soviet Muslim region north of Afghanistan, to transport non-military cargo such as fuel and food to support its military operations against the Taliban. The route has become particularly important as traditional supply lines through Pakistan have come under increasingly fierce attack from Taliban insurgents. 

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have long been at odds over cross-border water use, and Uzbekistan sometimes blocks trains from entering Tajikistan as a way of putting pressure on its neighbour. 

"As of May 24, 2,500 carriages bound for Tajikistan are being held on the territory of the Uzbek railways," Usmon Kalandarov, deputy head of Tajikistan's state railway company, told Reuters late on May 25. "Out of those carriages, more than 300 are NATO cargo for Afghanistan."
A spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul confirmed the disruptions. "We are aware there are some tensions in the area and that some carriages carrying NATO supplies are being held up," said Lieutenant-Colonel Goetz Hasske. 

"We don't know anything about numbers, but it is not affecting logistics in the area. We have several border crossing points that we can use and we may have to re-route some shipments. These are ongoing political tensions in the area." 

Once in Central Asia, trains bound for Afghanistan travel through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan before reaching northern Afghanistan. 

Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous country, is angry at impoverished Tajikistan's plans to build a new hydroelectric power plant, Rogun, which Uzbekistan says would disrupt the flow of water it needs for irrigation. 

Tajikistan, for its part, has accused Uzbekistan of blocking transit trains loaded with building materials in an attempt to put pressure on it and prevent Rogun's construction. 

Tashkent hosts the meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization member-states, ahead of a key meeting of their heads of state there in June. 

Tashkent has more reasons than one to throw its weight around in this manner at this particular juncture. It is showing that it is indeed the central state of Central Asia and that it is not going to kowtow to the Americans. This is likely to impress particularly the Chinese, the central state of Asia. The Uzbeks are showing that they are worthy hosts of the next meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in mid-June.

This is a most important organisation that could decide the destinies of Eurasia, indeed help to of the world. It is at the moment a six-nation organisation, consisting of the two giants, China and Russia, plus Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Turkmenistan is not a member.
It has four very important observer states that are almost certain to join, India, Mongolia, Pakistan and Turkmenistan. Iran wishes to join, but is debarred by its defiance of UN resolutions against its nuclear programme. The SCO could clearly develop into a powerful irenic force for peace across its vast expanse. The next meeting in Tashkent could be crucial to its evolution.

A preliminary meeting of the SCO's foreign ministers was held in May, to prepare the agenda for the big one. The meeting was also attended by the SCO Secretary-General M.S.Imanaliev and Director of the Executive Committee of the Regional Anti-terrorist Structure (RATS) SCO D.M.Djumanbekov.

The heads of delegations were received by the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov. The meeting of the Council of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of SCO Member-States was naturally chaired by the Uzbek side.

In preparation for the meeting of the Council of Heads of the SCO Member-States due in Tashkent on June 10-11, the parties considered a number of priorities in terms of further expanding cooperation in the framework of the Organization.

The sides had an exchange of views on important regional and global issues, as well as on strengthening stability and security in Central Asia, further strengthening the status of the SCO as an influential international structure, expanding its contacts with other multilateral organizations.

The heads of delegations expressed their solidarity with the people of Kyrgyzstan in the current difficult situation. The security and stability in the SCO space is inseparably linked with security and stability in each of the Member-States, including in the Kyrgyz Republic. The SCO Member-States, while standing committed to independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Kyrgyz Republic, are ready to render it necessary support and assistance.

The heads of delegations stated that for over the period since the meeting of the Council of Heads of the SCO Member-States on June 15-16, 2009 in Yekaterinburg, it was carried out a significant work to further strengthen the Organization, expand in its framework the practical interaction in political, economic and humanitarian spheres, as well as extend external contacts. The activity of the SCO truly contributes to addressing social and economic problems, ensuring security and stability in the region.

The ministers emphasized that strengthening of stability in Central Asia remains to be the first and foremost task of the SCO Member-States in the sphere of security. They confirmed the intention to expand cooperation in such spheres as jointly counteracting terrorism, separatism and extremism, illicit drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.

The participants of the meeting expressed serious concern over the complex situation in Afghanistan, from the territory of which it continues to emanate the threat of terrorism, drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. It was stressed that it was impossible to secure stability in Central Asia without resolving problems related to Afghanistan.

The member states reaffirmed the leading role of the UN in coordinating efforts of the international community in addressing the situation in Afghanistan. They believe that the Afghan problem cannot be resolved exceptionally by military means and advocate promotion of the negotiating process under UN auspices with participation of the Afghans themselves in the interests of building Afghanistan as a peaceful and stable state.

It was noted that further deepening of regional economic cooperation and creation of favourable conditions for trade and investments, consolidation of practical interaction in the spheres of trade, finance, energy, transport, communications, agriculture, science and technology would promote ensuring stability and security in the region.

The approval by ministers of the draft Regulations on admission of new members to the Organization served as confirmation of openness of the Organization to other states in the region that undertake to observe the goals and principles of the SCO Charter and provisions of other international treaties and instruments adopted in the framework of SCO. Approval of this document during the meeting of the Council of Heads of the SCO Member-States in Tashkent will trigger the process of forming a mechanism to expand the Organization.

The heads of delegations welcomed the signing of the Joint Declaration on cooperation between the Secretariats of the SCO and the United Nations (April 5, 2010, Tashkent) initiated by the Republic of Uzbekistan, which set the basic principles and directions of cooperation between the two Organizations as they have been defined in the Resolution A/64/183 of the UN General Assembly of December 18, 2009.

The SCO permanent bodies are recommended to intensify cooperation with the UN, ASEAN and other international organizations and institutions on ensuring security and stability, economic, social and humanitarian development.

The ministers believed that the Procedure rules of the Organization, which will be approved at the forthcoming SCO Summit in Tashkent, would contribute to further dynamic development and strengthening of the Organization, improvement of legal framework of the SCO permanent bodies and the effectiveness of decision making.

The parties reaffirmed the need to fuller realize the cooperation potential in various areas in the framework of the Organization with the SCO observer- states and dialogue partners.

The SCO Secretary-General M.S.Imanaliev presented Report on the work of the Organization’s Secretariat for over the past year, which was approved by the heads of delegations.

India and Pakistan want to join the SCO; so does Iran – but they are likely to fail
India and Pakistan are likely to be inducted into the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) while Iran may miss the bus as the country is already under UN sanctions for its nuclear programmes.

"The country aspiring to join SCO should not be under the UN Security Council sanctions," a Russian diplomatic source was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.

At their meeting in Tashkent the foreign ministers of the SCO, a regional security grouping, have approved draft procedures and criteria for the admission of new members to the regional grouping, which would be finalised at the SCO summit next month in Tashkent under the rotating presidency of Uzbekistan.

The Russia-China led SCO has closed its doors for Iran as it is under UN sanctions, ahead of its expansion to include India and Pakistan in the regional grouping.

"The document sets out the start of the process of forming a legal base for the expansion of the organisation," Uzbek Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov announced in Tashkent.

Iran has been pushing hard to seek full membership of the organisation and in spite of a wave of opposition protests in Tehran over presidential poll outcome, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad had flown to Yekaterinburg to attend the SCO summit, also attended Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari.

Iran is facing fresh bout of UN sanctions for its nuclear programme. Despite an initiative by Turkey and Brazil under which Iran has agreed to ship much of its low enriched uranium abroad in a nuclear fuel swap deal but the US said moves for toughened sanctions would still go ahead.

Currently India, Iran, Pakistan and Mongolia have an observer status in the SCO. Earlier at several occasions India and Pakistan have also voiced their willingness to join SCO, when it would adopt criteria and procedures for admission of new members of the grouping, which has began to play a significant role in combating terrorism, drug trafficking and cross-border organised crime.

"The procedure of admitting new members is of great importance for the SCO future. The adoption of this document at the Tashkent summit on June 10-11 will give an impulse to the formation of a mechanism of the organisation's expansion," Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko underscored.

He said it is a unique floor for dialogue between the great Chinese, Indian, Russian and Central Asian civilisations and cultures which meet in the vast region.



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