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Tajikistan Requests OSCE Help In Rail Dispute With Uzbekistan

DUSHANBE -- The Tajik government has formally asked the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to send a fact-finding mission to look into a railroad dispute between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Tajik Ambassador to the OSCE Nurmuhammad Shamsov told RFE/RL on October 13 that he informed a meeting of the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on October 7 that help in finding "a fair solution" to the standoff is urgently needed.

He said some 884 freight cars carrying food, medication, construction materials, and fuel are currently held up on the Uzbek side of their border and at other locations in Uzbekistan.

Shamsov said Tajikistan first requested OSCE intervention in the spring, but Uzbekistan's ongoing blockade of rail traffic to Tajikistan continues and constitutes grounds for concern.

The Tajik authorities say that since February, Uzbekistan has held up the transit of rail freight bound for Tajikistan in retaliation for Dushanbe's determination to proceed with construction of the Roghun hydropower station.

Uzbekistan strongly opposes that project because of concerns it would receive less water from Tajikistan needed for agricultural purposes.

Tashkent, however, says the delay in moving the rail cars was "purely technical" due to the need to repair some stretches of railroad tracks leading to the Amuzang crossing point that were damaged by spring floods.

That route is the only one connecting Uzbekistan and southern Tajikistan. All three international rail routes that lead to Tajikistan cross Uzbek territory.

The Tajik national rail company recently said a joint Tajik-Uzbek commission has been set up to address the freight problem.

Tajikistan has previously sought help from Iran and Kazakhstan in dealing with Uzbekistan about the rail problem.