(MENAFN - Trend News Agency ) Baku, Azerbaijan, Aug. 25
By Kamila Aliyeva – Trend:
The reason for better Uzbek-Kyrgyz trade relations is Uzbekistan's new president, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, said Bruce Pannier, a Central Asia expert.
'His administration's foreign policy, especially towards immediate neighbors in Central Asia, is a drastic departure from his predecessor Islam Karimov,' Pannier told Trend.
The expert recalled that Mirziyoyev during his first days as Uzbek leader said that he would seek to improve ties with all neighbor countries.
'Uzbek-Kyrgyz ties were very bad in the last years of Karimov's presidency. Their common border, more than 1,300 kilometers, was almost entirely closed,' Pannier said.
Since Mirziyoyev took over, officials from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan have been meeting regularly to discuss the border, he noted.
'Moreover, flights between the two countries are being increased and there is a chance that railway connections will be opened again soon.'
Pannier further noted that Mirziyoyev's policy is about more than friendship.
'Uzbekistan is located in the center of Central Asia, a location that makes it a natural hub for trade in the region. Uzbekistan has not been a trade hub because of Karimov's policies, but Mirziyoyev is trying to change this for economic reasons,' he said.
Tashkent could make a good amount of money from transit fees for goods being carried by road and rail through Uzbekistan to other Central Asian states, says the expert.
Commenting on possible restoration of the unified energy system in Central Asia, Pannier said that Mirziyoyev's focus on regional issues could give the idea the impetus it needs to move forward.
'A central energy grid from the Soviet era was already in place in Central Asia until 2009 when Uzbekistan unilaterally withdrew from it,' he said.
'In theory, it should be relatively easy to restore the system although it does date back to Soviet times and undoubtedly is in need of upgrades and repair,' added Pannier.