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Water management and Afghanistan the main issues on the EU Uzbekistan political agenda

29 November 2012

http://www.neurope.eu of 11/29/2012 - On 29 November, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov discussed about Uzbekistan's water management issues, the situation in Afghanistan and political reforms.

According to Ashton, the main issue of the agenda was the regional challenges in Central Asia and in particular the situation in Afghanistan. Ashton and Karimov discussed about the withdrawal of combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014 and the impact that could have in the region. On June 2012, Uzbekistan withdrew from the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organisation and according to Fox, Karimov did that move to pursue a more independent and Western policy in military issues. The U.S. in January removed a ban on providing military assistance to Uzbekistan, and on 25 August, Washington launched negotiations with Tashkent, discussing the possible establishment of an Operative Reaction Center in Uzbekistan, which could accommodate warehouses storing weapons and military hardware following the U.S. forces' withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014.

Regarding water management, Ashton talked about the confrontations between Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Uzbekistan, Central Asia's most populous country with approximately 28 million citizens, depends on the rivers that rise in from the other two countries. However, the intention of the neighbours to revive old dams' projects caused a serious political issue between the three countries. Ashton stressed to Karimov the importance of regional co-operation and underlined that the European Union is "ready to provide support for mutually beneficial solutions to water disputes."

Last but not least, Ashton encouraged the President of Uzbekistan to continue promoting the judicial reforms and acknowledge the increasingly important role of civil society.