Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan strengthen security

By Maksim Yeniseyev

Uzbekistani and Kyrgyz leaders October 1 in Andijan, Uzbekistan, sign a co-operation memorandum. [Kamolot photo obtained by Maksim Yeniseyev]

Uzbekistani and Kyrgyz leaders October 1 in Andijan, Uzbekistan, sign a co-operation memorandum. [Kamolot photo obtained by Maksim Yeniseyev]

TASHKENT -- Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are striving to co-operate against menaces like extremism and terrorism.

Uzbekistani Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov September 15 in Bishkek announced plans for further co-operation during a conference with Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev.

On October 1, officials of the Kyrgyz provinces bordering Uzbekistan made a historic visit to Andijan Province, Uzbekistan. At the end of the meeting, representatives from Osh, Batken and Jalal-Abad provinces, Kyrgyzstan, signed a memorandum of co-operation with counterparts from Andijan, Fergana and Namangan provinces, Uzbekistan.

Those six provinces all lie in the densely populated Fergana Valley, where extremists often try to recruit residents.

Thwarting extremism

Both countries' law enforcement agencies regularly break up such recruitment.

In Kyrgyzstan, the Osh city court on September 29 sentenced two Kyrgyz men and two Uzbekistani men to prison sentences ranging from 10 to 18 years, according to the Kyrgyz State National Security Committee (GKNB).

All four "were part of ISIL [the 'Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant'], which recruited them abroad and sent them to Osh to wage 'jihad'," the GKNB said in a statement.

The Fergana Valley is home to the founders of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The Uzbekistani military eventually sent IMU members fleeing into Pakistan and Afghanistan, but the IMU was strong enough in 1999 to do battle with Kyrgyz forces in Batken Province.

Mutual need for security; a historic cross-border visit

Recognising the need to confront extremist forces, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan are reaching out to each other.

"The Uzbekistani side is prepared to jump-start positive Kyrgyz-Uzbekistani relations," Kamilov, the Uzbekistani foreign minister, said during his visit to Bishkek September 15. Acting Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev followed up two days later by phoning his Kyrgyz counterpart, Atambayev.

"People's diplomacy" ensued October 1, when 130 Kyrgyz border province officials journeyed to Andijan Province, Uzbekistan.

The Kyrgyz guests "received a grand welcome", Sherzod Mirkamalov, a spokesman for Kamolot, a national Uzbekistani youth organisation, told Caravanserai.

"May our courteous, friendly and familial relations last for all eternity," Andijan Province Hokim (Governor) Shukhratbek Abdurakhmanov said during the reception October 1, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL).

"Our warm welcome showed that Uzbekistanis are open to friendship, and we are very grateful to them for that," Kyrgyz First Deputy Prime Minister Mukhammetkaly Abulgaziyev said about the hospitality, according to RFE/RL.

Uzbekistanis are joyful to see the strengthening of ties to Kyrgyzstan.

"When all across the world states are fighting, our politicians found a path to each other," Tashkent resident Ilkhom Tursunov told Caravanserai.

"Our countries should befriend each other," Tashkent resident Madina Iminova told Caravanserai.

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