ASTANA -- Central Asian leaders will bolster co-operation in 2018 and possibly convene for the first time in more than a decade, predicts Kazakhstani political scientist Erlan Karin, chairman of the Kazakhstan Council for International Relations.
Karin made his remarks Monday (January 8) during a presentation in Astana on his predictions for the region's 10 most important events this year, Kazinform reported.
"Perhaps in 2018, the leaders of Central Asian countries will convene for the first time in many years," Karin said, adding that such a meeting has not taken place since 2005.
Central Asian countries will step up co-operation in all spheres this year, he said, with regional co-operation likely occurring in a bilateral or trilateral format.
"Relations between key countries of the region will be the driving force in that respect," he said.
A year of increased co-operation
According to Karin, 2018 will be a year of growing co-operation between the Central Asian states.
"This year will be the year of intensification of Central Asian co-operation," he said. "In fact, we've been observing this trend since 2017. But we are convinced that the development of co-operation between the [Central Asian] countries will reach a new level in 2018. It is likely to reach a more stable format."
Other analysts have also predicted that Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan will establish ties for mutually beneficial economic co-operation this year.
Economic growth in the region will continue to accelerate in 2018, reaching as high as 2.7%, according to World Bank estimates.
"This year will be more positive in terms of economic development, in the sense that the countries of the region will enter a positive dynamic of economic growth," Karin said, according to Azernews.
Upcoming visits, new agreements
Plans already appear to be under way for official visits and new agreements between Central Asian leaders.
Uzbekistani President Shavkat Mirziyoyev January 6 announced a plans are in the works for his visit to Tajikistan this year, AsiaPlus reported, citing Uzbekistani TV.
Mirziyoyev vowed to establish neighbourly relations with Tajikistan during an address to the Tashkent provincial legislature.
Prime Minister Abdulla Aripov will soon visit Tajikistan to discuss preparations for the president's visit, Mirziyoyev said.
"We will sign many agreements, reinstate the [Central Asian] unified power grid, launch rail service and discuss many other issues," Mirziyoyev said.