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Uzbekistan Annuls Air Traffic Agreement With Tajikistan

A Tajik Airlines TU-154 on the tarmac
A Tajik Airlines TU-154 on the tarmac
DUSHANBE -- Uzbekistan has terminated a key air-traffic agreement with neighboring Tajikistan and may temporarily close its airspace to Tajik aircraft, RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.

Ismoil Talbakov, a member of Tajikistan's lower house of parliament, interpreted the Uzbek move as an attempt to thwart Tajikistan's economic development. Some Tajik analysts agreed, pointing to an earlier blockade by Uzbekistan of rail freight cars bound for Tajikistan.

But Tajik air-navigation expert Mahmadyusuf Shodiev said that all international air-navigation, including flights between Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, is regulated by international rules and takes place under international supervision. Shodiev said that therefore there are no grounds for concern about flight safety.

Under the now terminated 1993 agreement, Uzbek air-traffic controllers guided planes overflying Uzbek territory to land in Tajikistan's northern Sughd Province, while Tajik air-traffic controllers provided similar guidance to Uzbek planes landing in Uzbekistan's southern Surkhndarya Province.

Aziz Nabiev, head of the air-navigation service at Tajikistan's Transport and Communications Ministry, told RFE/RL that the countries signed a temporary agreement on June 26 at Uzbekistan's insistence. Under that agreement, each country's air-traffic controllers will take complete responsibility for guiding its planes to land. In addition, Uzbekistan has asked that Tajik planes no longer begin their descent to land in Sughd from Uzbek airspace.

Tajik officials say they have submitted the draft of a new permanent agreement to Uzbekistan but have not received a response to that proposal.

Nabiev, for his part, explained that if Uzbekistan closes its airspace to Tajik planes they could be re-routed through the airspace of other countries. He said this would, however, be more expensive.

Uzbekistan has also annulled an analogous air-traffic agreement with Kyrgyzstan.