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23 Jan, 2009 06:15

Medvedev goes sightseeing in Uzbekistan

Russian President Medvedev is holding talks on energy and security during the second day of his visit to Uzbekistan, one of Russia's key partners in Central Asia.

President Medvedev is expected to sign a new trade deal with the Uzbek leader Islam Karimov.

The Central Asian state had been a close ally of Washington, supporting the US-led effort to fight international terrorism.

However, relations began deteriorating after the riots in the Uzbek city of Andijan in 2005, when government troops fired at protesters, killing almost 200 people. In the wake of the shootings, the US and the EU implemented sanctions against Uzbekistan.

Dmitry Medvedev arrived in Samarkand on Thursday. Founded 2,750 years ago, it’s one of the oldest cities in the world and the second largest city in Uzbekistan. It’s often called the ‘Crossroads of Cultures’ as it was situated on the Silk Road between China and the West.

Medvedev and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, held an informal meeting in the historic city, visiting famous landmarks – including the 14th century Bibi-Khanym Mosque.

Medvedev, on his second visit to Samarkand, said he enjoyed the sightseeing.

“I liked it very much. Undoubtedly, this city is a treasury of world civilisation both in its historical potential and because of those historical events that started here,” the Russian President said.

After the visit, the presidents flew to the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, for formal talks.

“We have things to discuss. We have strategic partnership relations and at the same time we always have prospects for the future,” Dmitry Medvedev said.

The issues discussed by the two sides during the talks ranged from bilateral trade to regional security.

Uzbekistan, a former republic of the Soviet Union, became independent in 1991. Its economy relies mainly on commodities, including cotton, gold, uranium, and natural gas.