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Saparmurat Niyazov's visit to Buhara: the regional aspect

A recent official visit by Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov to Uzbekistan has fully equaled the hopes. The set and mood of talks between the two leaders, the results of talks, which ended in signing of an impressive package of documents (judging not by the number but significance), will from now on determine the whole spectrum of bilateral relations for the foreseeable future both on the contract-legal and political-psychological levels.

The meeting of presidents Niyazov and Karimov in Buhara proved - both leaders do not want a long-term strategy of relations between their countries and peoples to depend on important but rather secondary and predominantly technical issues (border regime, use of water and etc.) that were "inherited" from the Soviet time and have a precedent of their positive resolution in other parts of the post-Soviet territory.

Apart from the bilateral aspect, the regional aspect of the summit is also very important. It is clear that Ashgabat and Tashkent are united in their understanding of regional development determinants, of which preservation and enhancement of stability is the chief one. It is exactly stability in domestic policy and interstate relations that will help Central Asia become a region capable of attracting investments and implementing large-scale energy, transport, communication projects of the continental scale and related to it advantages. Apparently, it can be achieved in close cooperation both on the bilateral and multilateral levels, using the available arsenal of political-diplomatic, financial-economic and other means.

Today's Central Asian region is not the notorious "republics of Soviet Central Asia". It consists of Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, northern India, southern Asian regions of Russia and western regions of China from the geopolitical, economic, historic and ethno-cultural points of view. All these countries, regardless of their shape and potential, are independent subjects of the regional policy with vested long-term interests that do not necessarily coincide. But at the same time, they face common challenges - terrorism threats, drug trafficking and transnational organized crime. Achieving compatibility of these interests in the fight against the common enemy, while helping overcome existing obstacles, old phobias and stereotypes, is as urgent as has never been before. This was a reason for putting forth an initiative on the establishment of a UN Regional Center of Preventive Diplomacy in Ashgabat and a Central Asian Regional Information Center on Countering Transnational Crime as a result of illegal trade in drugs that was fixed in the "big" Turkmen-Uzbek Treaty signed in Buhara. Such "casting" is quite understandable. Turkmenistan as a neutral state fits good as a regional "floor" for political-diplomatic consultations, which by definition cannot be "unsuitable" to any of their participants. Uzbekistan, in turn, has for a number of reasons a good experience in coordination of international efforts of law enforcing and power yielding agencies. Such "separation" of diplomats and "power yielding bodies" will allow them, on the one hand, to act independently and not interfering in each other's work and, on the other hand, in parallel, united by the common aim of enhancing stability and security in the region, taking into account particularities of issues at point.

The Turkmen-Uzbek initiative on the establishment of the above-mentioned regional centers in their capitals has a strong geopolitical background. Both countries pursue a clear-cut, impartial and independent foreign policy, yet they use different methods. Also, Ashgabat and Tashkent managed to establish trustworthy partnership relations both with great powers - the U.S., Russia and China - and with other large regional players - Iran and Pakistan. Finally, owing to geographic proximity, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan have established specific relations with neighboring Afghanistan, providing vital economic aid to this country. All these factors cannot go unnoticed by the world community, UN and other international organizations in their planning of a long-term strategy in the region as well as in choosing partners and conductors for realization of this strategy.

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