TASHKENT -- Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has appointed an ambassador to Uzbekistan after 17 months without a diplomat in Tashkent, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.
Nazarbaev's press service reported that Boribay Zheksembin, the former governor of Kazakhstan's southern Dzhambyl region, has been named ambassador to Uzbekistan.
Kazakh Foreign Ministry spokesman Askar Abdrakhmanov told RFE/RL that Zheksembin's experience governing Dzhambyl -- which borders Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan -- will be useful in his new position.
He said Zheksembin, 57, is familiar with border and economic affairs between the two countries. Abdrakhmanov added that the position was vacant for so long because a lengthy search was conducted to find a suitable candidate.
He said both countries are seen as leaders in Central Asia, and their cooperation "defines progress in the region."
Kazakh political analyst Eduard Poletaev told RFE/RL that the two states face numerous problems over specific issues such as border closures and general topics like political cooperation.
He said an "unhealthy" competition between the two countries derives from a longstanding personal rivalry between Nazarbaev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov.
Poletaev said that Karimov has rejected Nazarbaev's plan to establish an economic union among Central Asian countries.
The last Kazakh ambassador to Uzbekistan, Zautbek Turisbekov, was appointed envoy to Russia on August 14, 2009, leaving the post in Tashkent vacant.
Trade turnover between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan was some $1.5 billion last year. There are some 200 Kazakh firms operating in Uzbekistan and a reported 715 Uzbek companies in Kazakhstan.