Russia says must work more closely with Uzbekistan

The Uzbek authorities said they were putting down an uprising by armed militant Islamists, but witnesses said many of the victims were unarmed civilians.

Russia says must work more closely with Uzbekistan

Russia and Uzbekistan must work more closely together, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said on Friday on a visit to the Central Asia state which has troubled Moscow by seeking better ties with the West.

"We need to constantly exchange views and discuss very serious issues," Medvedev told Uzbek President Islam Karimov at the start of their meeting on Friday.

"I am talking about the global financial and economic crisis that has affected every country on the planet."

Analysts say Medvedev's visit is part of a push to reassert Russia's leading role in the region, and comes at a time when the European Union is renewing its search for alternative energy sources following a gas row between Russia and Ukraine.

The European Union, alarmed by a two-week disruption in Russian gas supplies earlier this month, wants Central Asia to feed its projected Nabucco pipeline -- bypassing Russia.

Karimov, who alarmed Russia in November by withdrawing Uzbekistan from a Moscow-led regional economic cooperation group, assured Medvedev that he still saw the Kremlin as the key player in Central Asia.

"The world is changing very fast, the balance of forces is changing together with accents and guidelines," he told Medvedev.

"In this respect, Russia is a country which has always been present in this region and a country which has decided politics and balance of forces here," he added. "I believe your visit here is very important and very symbolic."

Uzbekistan became Moscow's closest ally in the region after the West imposed sanctions on it in 2005, including visa bans on top officials, in response to a security crackdown in the Uzbek town of Andijan.

The Uzbek authorities said they were putting down an uprising by armed militant Islamists, but witnesses said many of the victims were unarmed civilians.

Tashkent, which denied civilian deaths, responded by evicting a U.S. military airbase. But some of the sanctions have since been lifted and U.S. troops are now allowed to use another Uzbek airbase.

Reuters
Last Mod: 23 Ocak 2009, 16:41
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