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NATO Delegation Holds 'Fruitful' Meetings In Tajikistan


Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon (left) with Portuguese lawmaker and vice chairman of the NATO Parliamentary Assemly's Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security, Vitalino Canas, in Dushanbe on April 21
* Clarified version

DUSHANBE/PRAGUE -- High-ranking members of the first-ever NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation to visit Tajikistan have said their meetings with the government and parliament were "very fruitful," RFE/RL's Tajik Service reported.

David Hobbs, secretary-general of the Parliamentary Assembly, said it was a productive visit and he proposed further contacts, meetings, and training programs -- especially with Tajik lawmakers and parliamentary staff -- in the next 12 months.

Hobbs said he hopes to propose that "a small delegation from the [Tajik] parliament participates in some of our meetings."

Tajik President Emomali Rahmon's website said that during the meeting the possibility of establishing a regional NATO center to fight terrorism and help deal with emergency situations was discussed.

The NATO PA delegation was led by Portuguese lawmaker and vice chairman of the assembly's Committee on the Civil Dimension of Security, Vitalino Canas. After the meeting, Canas "recognized the positive stabilizing role Tajikistan can play in the region" and "praised Tajikistan's management of its relations with all major regional players as part of its so-called 'open door' foreign policy,'" according to an assembly statement.

Ruxandra Popa, the director of the assembly's Civil Dimension of Security Committee, told RFE/RL that "one of the main conclusions of the visit...was the important role that Tajikistan plays in relation to stabilization and reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, and the readiness expressed by Tajik officials to our delegation to play an even more active role."

Popa suggested Tajikistan was unlikely to be a "one-to-one replacement for Manas" in nearby Kyrgyzstan, where U.S. and coalition troops are being evicted by the government in Bishkek, or a "main transit route to Afghanistan."

But she also said the recent agreement on transiting nonmilitary goods to Afghanistan "can only be welcome."

* This piece was changed to incorporate a clarification of Ms. Popa's comments.