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Tajikistan, Uzbekistan At Odds Over New Air Traffic Agreement

Lake Iskanderkul in Tajikistan's Sughd province - Tajikistan has rejected Uzbekistan's attempt to reinstate an air-traffic agreement in the border region.
DUSHANBE -- Tajikistan has rejected a new draft air-traffic agreement proposed by neighboring Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

In June, Uzbekistan terminated the bilateral air-traffic agreement in force for the previous 16 years, under which Uzbek air-traffic controllers guided planes overflying Uzbek territory to land in Tajikistan's northern Sughd Province. Tajik air-traffic controllers provided similar guidance to Uzbek planes landing in Uzbekistan's southern Surkhandarya Province.

But several days later, the two countries signed a temporary agreement at Uzbekistan's insistence. Under that agreement, each country's air-traffic controllers took complete responsibility for guiding its planes in to land. In addition, Uzbekistan stipulated that Tajik planes should no longer begin their descent to land in Sughd from Uzbek airspace.

Aziz Nabiev, head of the air-navigation service at Tajikistan's Transport and Communications Ministry, told RFE/RL that now the Uzbek side wants to guide planes overflying Uzbek territory to land in Tajikistan's northern Sughd Province, while maintaining control of Uzbek planes landing in southern Uzbekistan. He said that demand is unacceptable to Tajikistan.

Tajikistan and Uzbekistan are independent countries, and so each should control its own air-space, Nabiev added.

Nabiev further pointed to Uzbekistan's earlier blockade of rail freight cars bound for Tajikistan. He said he is convinced Uzbekistan's decision to terminate the air-traffic agreement between the two countries was politically motivated, and now the Uzbek side has realized it was a mistake. Nabiev added that the two sides will begin a new round of negotiations soon.

Uzbekistan has also annulled an analogous air-traffic agreement with Kyrgyzstan.