Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have reached a deal to scrap visa requirements for their citizens to visit one another’s countries for stays of up to one month.
In another signal of warming ties between the historically suspicious neighbors, agreement has been reached on how to jointly manage a disputed section of land that hosts a hydropower station.
The breakthroughs are the most concrete results of Uzbek Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov’s two-day visit to Dushanbe, which began on January 10.
The talks in Dushanbe are intended to lay the groundwork for what should be a historic trip to Tajikistan from Uzbekistan’s President Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the early spring. Agreement thrashed out now will be definitely formalized when that happens.
An emerging theme of the rapprochement has been that Tajiks and Uzbeks should be able to travel and trade more freely among themselves in the interests of improving both economies. The lifting of the visa regime will mark a major step in that direction.
There are also plans to open to new train and bus routes, as well as setting up additional border crossings.
Among the other issues raised during Aripov’s talks with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon, there were also proposals to cut down trade restrictions, the diminution of export tariffs, the restoration of railway links, efforts to clear mined border areas and deepening cooperation on anti-terrorism.
Efforts to settle outstanding territorial squabbles are instrumental to cementing the goodwill. During Aripov’s stay in Tajikistan, the two sides appear to have reached a working agreement on how to manage one such bone of contention: the Farkhad Dam, which is situated on the border in Tajikistan’s northern Sughd region. It has been agreed that the land surrounding the Farkhad plant will be recognized as Tajik soil, but that the facility itself will remain property of Uzbekistan. Security for the site will be provided by Tajikistan, while technical operations will be run by engineers from Uzbekistan.
A Tajik government official quoted by Asia-Plus described the intergovernmental meetings held in Dushanbe as “effective, productive and promising.” More is to be expected for Mirziyoyev’s arrival.
“At the conclusion of the Dushanbe meetings, the relevant ministries and departments in both states were instructed to prepare documents … on cooperation in transportation, communications, trade, economy and borders,” the source said.