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Israel Says Relations With Uzbekistan Still Good, Despite Reports


TASHKENT -- Israel has said it has good relations with Uzbekistan despite the recent cancellation of several high-profile meetings between Uzbek and Israeli authorities, RFE/RL Uzbek Service reports.

Israeli Ambassador to Uzbekistan Hillel Newman told RFE/RL that reports by izrus.co.il -- a Russian-language news agency in Israel -- that relations between the two states have worsened are "baseless and untrue."

The news agency claims that relations soured on September 29, when Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Ergash Shoismatov had to go through a security check in Israel while in transit to Romania, despite his diplomatic status.

Newman says Shoismatov did not inform Israel about his trip in advance and "therefore went through a routine security check." He added that Israel sent its apologies to Uzbek officials after the incident.

Meanwhile, a July visit to Uzbekistan by Israeli President Shimon Peres and an October visit there by Israeli deputy mayors were cancelled.

Newman said the proposed dates for Peres's visit to Uzbekistan did not fit the schedule of President Islam Karimov and therefore had to be cancelled.

Izrus director Mikhail Falkov told RFE/RL that the high-profile cancellations were a result of Newman's attempt to accelerate the process of organizing Peres's trip to Uzbekistan during a tour of Muslim former Soviet republics.

Instead of addressing his request to the Uzbek Foreign Ministry, Newman reportedly asked Israel's UN representative in Geneva, Aharon Leshno Yaar, to discuss Peres's possible visit with Gulnara Karimova, President Karimov's daughter and the Uzbek ambassador to the UN in Geneva.

But Newman says the meeting of UN representatives was a routine meeting of two ambassadors.
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