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Tajik FM Hopeful Of OSCE Help In Disputes With Uzbekistan

Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi (file photo)
Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi (file photo)
ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Tajik Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi says he is optimistic that meetings with 13 counterparts from other Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) members will help free the movement of people and goods across Central Asia, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Zarifi met with the other foreign ministers on the sidelines of the weekend's OSCE ministerial meeting in Almaty on July 18.

He told RFE/RL on July 19 that talks were held on the more than 1,000 freight cars -- mostly carrying construction material bound for Tajikistan -- that have been held up in Uzbekistan since the beginning of the year.

Framing the freight-train delay are broader tensions between the two countries, namely the dispute over Tajikistan's construction of a hydroelectric dam in the Roghun region.

Zarifi said he hoped the OSCE would support Tajikistan's pursuit of greater control over the rivers on its territory.

He added that the OSCE had sought unsuccessfully for several years to persuade Uzbekistan to remove mine fields on its eastern border with Tajikistan's Sughd province.

Dozens of Tajik farm workers have been killed and hundreds injured by exploding mines along the border.

Zarifi said the agenda of the Almaty meeting included the conflict in Afghanistan, Tajikistan's southern neighbor, and the recent ethnic clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in southern Kyrgyzstan.

He said those conflicts have contributed to rising tensions in southern and northeastern Tajikistan, respectively.

Finally, Zarifi said Tajikistan fully supported the proposal by Kazakhstan, the current OSCE chairman, to convene a formal OSCE summit later this year.

However, other countries in the region -- which Zarifi did not identify -- "are not yet ready" to express their support, he said.

The last OSCE summit took place in Istanbul in 1999.