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6 Feb, 2008 10:27

Energy issues top the agenda at Russian-Uzbek talks

Russian and Uzbek relations are on the best possible footing, according to President Vladimir Putin. He and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, discussed energy co-operation projects, including nuclear energy during a meeting in Moscow.

This is Karimov's first official visit since his re-election last year.

Among the issues discussed by the two presidents was co-operation in developing the gas-transport infrastructure in Central Asia.

A number of bilateral agreements were signed. Among them is one on cooperation in the aviation sector, which both leaders see as very important.

The ties between the two countries have been strengthening after a cooling-off several years ago.

The collapse of the Soviet Union saw the Central Asian country lean towards the United States. In the post-September 11 period, Uzbekistan was the first among the Central Asian Republics to offer a military base to the U.S. to support military operations in Afghanistan in the war against terrorism.

But relations with the U.S. became severely strained after Uzbek troops' suppression of an uprising in May 2005 in the city of Andijan.

The United States and European Union called for an independent international inquiry into the killings, a demand that President Islam Karimov rejected. The Uzbek leader said the uprising was aimed at creating an Islamic state, a view backed by Russia. In July the Uzbek government gave U.S. forces six months to leave.

The growing friendship with Russia was strengthened by the signing of the “Treaty on Alliance Relations” in November 2005. It allows each country the use of military installations on the other's territory. The agreement also calls for each to provide military aid to the other in the event of either facing “aggression.”

Today the main fields of co-operation between the two countries include energy, trade, the food industry, finance and transport.

The two states share over 200 agreements and treaties.

Trade between Russia and Uzbekistan grew by 40 per cent in 2007 reaching almost $US 3 billion. Russia accounts for over 40 per cent of all foreign investment into the country and remains its largest investor.

The latest major joint-projects include the development of Khauzak gas field in Uzbekistan, where Lukoil has the blocking stake, and Gazprom's seismological survey and drilling in the Ustyurt area.