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Kazakhs, Tajiks Scrutinize Ties Ahead Of Summit

ASTANA, August 24, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- An official delegation from Tajikistan met in Astana today with members of the Kazakh government to discuss ways to improve mutual economic and cultural ties, RFE/RL's Kazakh Service reported.

Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev's office also announced plans to visit Dushanbe sometime in September.

Kazakh Prime Minister Karim Masimov said one of the key issues that Nazarbaev will discuss with Tajik officials in Dushanbe is how to share the region's water resources.

While relatively barren of fossil fuels in an energy-rich region, Tajikistan controls about 60 percent of Central Asia's freshwater resources.

Tajik Prime Minister Oqil Oqilov said the rapidly developing Kazakh economy requires increasing energy resources, and that Tajikistan could be a major provider of electricity in the near future:

"When the Sangtuda hydroelectric power plant is put into operation, we will able to export to Kazakhstan up to 2.5 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity during the summer period," Oqilov said.

Meanwhile, it was agreed during today's talks that Kazkahstan would increase sugar and wheat sales to Tajikistan and open its markets to Tajik agricultural products.

Another issue discussed today -- and expected to arise again at the Dushanbe talks in September -- is the plight of Tajik seasonal workers in Kazakhstan.

Maskab Jumanazarov, head of the Tajik Culture Center in Kazakhstan's Jambyl region, says many Tajik laborers arrive without proper documents or work permits. And he says some try to settle permanently in Kazakhstan:

"About 37,000 Tajiks live here, mainly in the South Kazakhstan and Jambyl regions," Jumanazarov said. "We have five [Tajik] schools functioning here in the South Kazakhstan region."

Many Tajik workers spend the summer months in Kazakhstan to earn money in construction work or on tobacco or cotton farms.

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