The Foreign Ministers of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan conferred yesterday in the Tajik capital Dushanbe on the political situation in the latter country. The visiting ministers also held talks with Tajik President Imomali Rahmonov.
In the lead role at the concluding news conference, Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov sounded the alarm at the "phenomenon of Islamic extremism" and "penetration of religious extremism in the region." Komilov also criticized "certain countries" for allegedly supporting Islamic radicalism in Central Asia. He warned that Uzbekistan will soon name such countries and organizations. Komilov announced that Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, as "legitimately concerned" neighbors of Tajikistan, would henceforth "coordinate" with the latter country in resisting fundamentalist Islam. The two ministers came out in favor of a "secular state" in Tajikistan.
A joint communique expressed the common determination to "struggle against any forms of religious and political extremism and terrorism." It announced that such meetings would from now on be held regularly as part of a newly created "consultative mechanism" aimed at "coordinating the actions" of the three countries. The ministers also agreed to include Tajikistan in the Central Asian Union, of which Kazakhstan is also a member. (Russian agencies, March 3)
The unprecedented event underscored Uzbekistan’s bid for political influence in post-war Tajikistan. The presence of Kyrgyzstan in a supporting role appeared designed to confer a veneer of multilateralism upon the Uzbek policy, in the absence of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan. There was no indication that the visiting ministers met in Dushanbe with leaders of the United Tajik Opposition, which is in the process of being included in the Tajik government, and which favors a "popular" — as distinct from "secular" — state. Although the UTO is not "fundamentalist," Uzbekistan harbors serious misgivings about the emerging political compromise in Tajikistan.
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