Two of the most despotic leaders in the world sit atop the governments of Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, according to rights groups. But in sharp contrast to the way they regard their respective peoples, Turkmenistan’s Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and Uzbekistan’s Islam Karimov seem to treat each other with courtesy and respect when they get together.
At their most recent meeting, held in late November in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, Berdymukhamedov and Karimov reportedly signed agreements outlining economic and humanitarian cooperation. They also discussed Central Asia’s water disputes, though, as usual, details about that conversation were scarce. Even so, the overall tenor of the meeting was upbeat.
"Today Uzbek-Turkmen cooperation is developing dynamically," Uzbekistan state media declared on November 25. “The present meeting in Tashkent between the heads of Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan is the logical continuation of an efficient and active dialogue.”
The official view is echoed by local political observers. Bilateral relations are "quite stable, businesslike and trustworthy,” said Farkhad Tolipov, a Tashkent-based political analyst.
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Murat Sadykov is the pseudonym for a journalist specializing in Central Asian affairs.