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Russian Foreign Minister Aims To Thaw Relations In Uzbekistan

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov
TASHKENT -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has arrived in Tashkent for a two-day visit aimed at improving cooled relations between Moscow and Tashkent, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service reports.

Lavrov will meet with Uzbek President Islam Karimov and Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov to discuss regional security and cooperation issues.

Tashkent political analyst Toshpulat Yuldashev says he thinks Lavrov's visit illustrates the Kremlin's attempts to keep Uzbekistan within its sphere of influence.

He says Uzbekistan is increasingly strengthening its diplomatic relations with Western countries and China, and avoids participating in the Russian-led Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Collective Security Treaty Organization.

Farkhod Tolipov, another political analyst in Tashkent, says that due to the unstable situation in Afghanistan the importance of the Central Asian region for the United States and NATO is increasing.

Tolipov adds that as a result, Russia is reviewing its relations with Uzbekistan and might change its political strategy towards the country.

He says Uzbekistan has been sending warnings to Russia by missing several CIS summits and other collective organization meetings -- Karimov did not attend an informal CIS presidential summit in Almaty on December 19-20.

But Tolipov says Uzbekistan wants Moscow to support Tashkent in negotiations over natural gas and water resources with neighboring Central Asian countries.

He adds that Russia provides Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan with financial assistance -- two countries that have serious disagreements with Uzbekistan over water issues.

Tolipov says Uzbek-Russian relations would improve if Russia provided similar assistance to Uzbekistan.

The Russian Embassy in Tashkent said Uzbekistan has the fourth-largest trade turnover of CIS countries with Russia after Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan.

Trade between the two countries from January-October 2009 amounted to some $2 billion.