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Analysts Say Water Was Tied To Kyrgyz, Uzbek Gas Deal

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov
TASHKENT -- Analysts say that agreements on water resources were also part of the new gas deal agreed to between Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan for lower energy prices next year, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Kyrgyz Prime Minister Daniyar Usenov, who was in Uzbekistan for the seventh meeting of an intergovernmental commission on bilateral cooperation, told journalists on December 29 that the gas price agreed to will be lower than the current $240 per thousand cubic meters currently being paid, though he refused to give an exact price.

Usenov said the final price will be determined in the near future by state companies UzTransGaz and KyrgyzGaz. Russia's state-controlled Gazprom owns 75 percent of KyrgyzGaz.

Kyrgyz media reported that the two countries have agreed on the provisional price of $220 per thousand cubic meters of gas. Tajikistan recently agreed to pay $240 per thousand cubic meters for Uzbek gas.

Some analysts said Uzbekistan agreed to lower its gas price in exchange for Bishkek agreeing to allow international experts to assess the Kambar-Ata 1 hydropower station project in Kyrgyzstan.

Uzbek political analyst Malik Abdurazzokov told RFE/RL that hydropower was even the most important issue during the negotiations in Tashkent. Abdurazzokov said if the two sides reach an agreement regarding the Kambar-Ata 1 and Toktagul stations then many problems will be solved.

The hydropower stations are needed by Kyrgyzstan to help ease the country's dependence on imported energy.

Kyrgyz analyst Uruzbek Muldaliev told RFE/RL that Uzbekistan is more interested in having international experts evaluate the Kambar-Ata power station for political, not for environmental or economic, reasons. He said Uzbek authorities fear Kyrgyzstan may block water supplies to Uzbekistan. Muldaleiv said there is no reason for those concerns.

He added that Uzbekistan also does not approve of Russia's involvement in the construction of Kambar-Ata 1.

Abdurazzokov said that given the cascade of new hydropower stations in Kyrgyzstan, it will not be able to accommodate both its own water needs and the needs of Uzbekistan.

He said Uzbekistan should not wait for the results of the Kambar-Ata assessment, but rather begin using alternative sources of energy.

Abdurazzokov said that international companies working with wind-generated power have made offers to both states. But he said the energy specialists in both countries are too conservative and are used to traditional power sources.

Uzbekistan provides vital energy to Kyrgyzstan, while Uzbeks are dependent on Kyrgyz water resources. Uzbekistan has on several occasions in previous years stopped exporting energy to Kyrgyzstan during the winter, souring relations.

Ties between the two have worsened over Kyrgyz plans to build hydropower plants that may reduce the amount of water Uzbekistan would receive from Kyrgyzstan.

Meanwhile, experts in both countries say that the just-completed negotiations in Tashkent were successful. The two countries have also agreed that an intergovernmental commission on the delimitation and demarcation of the Kyrgyz-Uzbek border will restart after a five-year break.

The commission held its first meeting on December 29 in Tashkent. The two states currently recognize some 900 kilometers of the border, with some 600 kilometers still not agreed upon.