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EU Delegation In Tajikistan Focuses On Regional Integration, Security

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders attends a press conference in Dushanbe on May 4.
DUSHANBE -- A European Union delegation led by Belgium's foreign minister has met with Tajik officials in Dushanbe to discuss Tajik and Central Asian regional issues.

Foreign Minister Didier Reynders told reporters after the talks on May 4 that the sides discussed regional integration and security issues -- including the situation in Tajikistan's neighbor, Afghanistan, and Dushanbe's relations with Uzbekistan.

Reynders stressed the importance of relations between Tajikistan and neighboring Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan in April suspended gas deliveries to Tajikistan for two weeks, causing major disruptions in the operation of several Tajik plants and factories.

Dushanbe and Tashkent have had strained diplomatic ties during the past two decades over a variety of issues, including energy and water resources, and transit routes.

"We have discussed about the situation among Tajikistan and the different neighbor countries. And it was very interesting to us to listen to the comments of the president about the relations with Russia, with Iran, with Uzbekistan, with China, with Pakistan and Turkmenistan," Reynders said.

"It is quite interesting to us to prepare many discussions on a bilateral level between Belgium and those countries."

Speaking about regional security and integration, Reynders also said the EU was ready to work together with Tajikistan to establish a stable situation in Afghanistan.

"We will work in the future together to organize, if it is possible, the stabilization of Afghanistan," he said. "If it is possible also to have a better integration in the region."

Reynders said his talks with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon also touched on the possibility of international observers monitoring Tajikistan's presidential election scheduled for November 2013.

"We will follow also the process inside Tajikistan until the next presidential election. And I was very pleased to listen to the president saying that it could be possible to organize the presence of observers from the international community during this new pair of elections," Reynders said.

"It is important to us to have the capacity to build a very good collaboration on a bilateral level, but also among the Tajik authorities and the European Union."

Tajik authorities have permitted Western observers to monitor previous elections in the country.

But international observers have said recent Tajik votes have not been free or fair because of measures restricting the development of genuine opposition movements, and state control of mass media.