Four Central Asian states – Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan – have argued over their water resources since the collapse of the Soviet Union. At times these disputes have seemed to threaten war. The forthcoming presidential summit in Astana can help banish that spectre.
U.S. Sec State Pompeo 3 Feb met President Mirziyoyev and FM Abdulaziz Kamilov in capital Tashkent; Pompeo praised Uzbekistan’s “progress” on human rights issues. Pompeo and all five Central Asian FMs met in Tashkent same day, where they discussed Central Asian contributions to peace process in Afghanistan, border security, and regional efforts to improve economic and energy connectivity. Deputy Prosecutor-General Svetlana Artykova in 7 Feb interview with Uzbek news agency admitted govt made “mistakes” in 2005 Andijon killings that killed hundreds of civilians; reportedly first such admission by govt official, with Artykova citing “new style of politics” as reason for remarks now. Clashes erupted between police and residents of village in south 14 Feb over planned demolition of homes; three people injured, including two police. Interior Ministry 19 Feb announced detention of 21 suspected supporters of banned Islamist militant group Katiba al-Tawhid wal-Jihad, which operates in Syria. Govt 20 Feb announced plan that will force Facebook, Google and Russian search engine Yandex to store personal data of Uzbek users within territory of Uzbekistan; critics view law as attempt to impose greater control over Internet users. Supreme Court 25 Feb jailed two former high-level officials on corruption charges, including former Prosecutor-General and former chief of State Security Service.
Uzbekistan’s first new president in more than a quarter century has taken some positive steps in the early days of his administration. In order to encourage more sustained progress, western partners and regional powers will need to balance conditional support with tactical pressure.
After 25 years of authoritarian rule, Uzbekistan faces unpredictable neighbours, a jihadi threat and deep socio-economic challenges. New President Shavkat Mirziyoyev has taken small steps toward vital domestic and foreign policy reform, and outside partners should push him to do more to avert real dangers ahead.
Domestic repression and self-imposed isolation has characterised Uzbekistan for much of the time since its independence in 1991. Following the death of Islam Karimov, the country’s long-time and only post-Soviet president, the outside world must seize a rare opportunity to re-engage with this critical Central Asian country.
Growing tensions in the Ferghana Valley are exacerbated by disputes over shared water resources. To address this, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan urgently need to step back from using water or energy as a coercive tool and focus on reaching a series of modest, bilateral agreements, pending comprehensive resolution of this serious problem.
The economic crisis has caused millions of migrant labourers from Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan to lose their jobs in the boom economies of Russia and Kazakhstan.
There are strong indications that Uzbek security forces murdered one of Kyrgyzstan’s most prominent journalists, Alisher Saipov, in October 2007 during the build-up to Uzbekistan’s end of year presidential elections, most likely because of his involvement in Erk (Freedom), a leading exile opposition party.
If the succession process [in Uzbekistan] is less than smooth, there is potential for this to create regional instability, particularly if we look to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
If the transition [in Uzbekistan] turns to political chaos, the risk of violent conflict is high; and in a region as fragile as Central Asia, the risk of that spreading is also high.
Originally published in The Interpreter
El derrame cerebral sufrido por el histórico líder autoritario de Uzbekistán (y los rumores sin confirmar de un posible fallecimiento) ha empujado al país hacia lo desconocido, pero los más íntimos del presidente van a tratar de conservar el poder y lograr que haya los mínimos trastornos durante la transición.
Originally published in Esglobal