Russia, Uzbekistan forge defence ties
By Vladimir Radyuhin
The Hindu
May 20, 2000

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[Thanks to Rick Rozoff for this article]

MOSCOW, MAY 19. Russia and Uzbekistan have agreed to
step up defence cooperation to face a growing threat
from Islamic extremism in Central Asia.

The agreement, reached by the visiting Russian
President, Mr. Vladimir Putin, and the President of
Uzbekistan, Mr. Islam Karimov, after intensive
three-hour talks in Tashkent on Friday, provides for
massive Russian weapon supplies to Uzbekistan and
direct military aid from Russia in case Uzbekistan
comes under attacks by Islamic rebels, military
sources said.

The Uzbek leader said Russia had pledged ``to do
everything necessary to guarantee the territorial
integrity, non- violability of borders, independence
and sovereignty of Uzbekistan.''

``Uzbekistan cannot defend itself single-handed,'' Mr.
Karimov joint a joint press conference with Mr. Putin.
``We are looking for protection and have found it in
Russia.''

Uzbekistan, which until last year tried to distance
itself from Russia and walked out of a collective
security pact with Moscow, turned around after a
series of terrorist bombings in Tashkent and an
intrusion of Uzbek rebels into neighbouring Kyrgyzstan
a year ago.

For its part, Russia, which has been fighting
Islamists in Chechnya, has become aware of the need to
fight Islamic terrorism at its source in Central Asia.
Mr. Putin emphasised the importance Russia attaches to
its relations with Uzbekistan by paying his first
foreign visit after taking office to Tashkent.

The Russian President said an arc of instability had
formed on the southern borders of the Commonwealth of
Independent States and any threat to Uzbekistan was a
threat to Russia.

``It's no secret to anyone that attempts have been
made recently to recarve the post-Soviet territory by
criminal methods, using religious extremism and
international terrorism,'' he said. ``If we do not
stop these attempts here in the South jointly with our
Uzbek friends, we will have to fight them at home.''

Mr. Putin stressed that joint efforts in opposing
these threats will be intensified ``up to taking
pre-emptive measures.'' Both Moscow and Tashkent
earlier warned that they could go as far as to carry
out air strikes against terrorist training bases in
Afghanistan.

The two countries were on the way to sign deals for
the supply of $32-million worth of Russian weapons to
Uzbekistan, head of the Russian arms exporting
company, Promexport, Mr. Sergei Chemizov, told
reporters in Tashkent. Under an earlier agreement
Russia is to deliver 50 armoured personnel carriers to
Uzbekistan. Defence experts said Russia would also
supply Uzbekistan with jet fighters and artillery.

``Uzbekistan has in fact been declared Russia's
strategic partner in Central Asia, at least as far as
security is concerned,'' Russia's RTR state television
said.

From Uzbekistan, Mr. Putin flew to Turmenistan to try
and seal a mega-deal for annual import of 50 million
cubic metres of Turkmen gas over the next 20 years.

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