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Regional security in Central Asia tops agenda in Uzbekistan
Experts gathered at a conference on "Regional Security and Stability in Central Asia: Key Challenges and Ways Forward" at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED) in Tashkent, Uzbekistan on 3 October. The event launched a series of NATO-supported events marking the 20th anniversary of the Partnership for Peace (PfP) programme in the Central Asian partner states.
Representatives from UWED, national think tanks, the diplomatic corps and international organisations discussed cross-border security in Central Asia, issues of regional security and integration processes with particular emphasis on institutional and cultural approaches. They also examined the challenges for Afghanistan after 2014.
Dr Alisher Faizullaev, Professor of Practical Diplomacy at UWED said, "It is important to develop Central Asian [regional] institutions and to use shared cultural factors to support interaction between the countries and peoples at different level".
Referring to the need for greater regional cooperation among Central Asian states, Dr Ulugbek Khasanov, Associate Professor of International Relations at UWED argued that "[we] shouldn't just "tolerate" each other; we should respect and trust each other".
Dr Aziz Malikov from the Centre for Regional Security Studies called for enhanced attention to the threat of local border tensions escalating into inter-state conflict, and remarked that the absence of delimitation and demarcation of many of the state borders in Central Asia prevents an effective fight against trans-national threats.
NATO Liaison Officer Alexander Vinnikov outlined NATO's engagement with Central Asian partners and support for Afghanistan, including through the post-ISAF support package (Resolute Support mission; financial sustainment of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF); NATO's Enduring Partnership with Afghanistan) recently announced at the Wales Summit.
Dr Aziz Rasulov, an expert at the Institute for Strategic and Regional Studies under the President of Uzbekistan, argued that the drawdown of the ISAF mission posed a serious challenge for Afghanistan's security and warned of the possibility of ANSF weapons falling in the hands of terrorist groups. Similarly, Dr Nihola Tulyaganova, Professor of International Relations at UWED expressed scepticism regarding the Afghan authorities' ability "to ensure stability, a functioning government and sustainable economic development".
Delegates also exchanged views about recent events in Ukraine, border tensions in the Ferghana Valley and the prospects for regional cooperation among Central Asian states.
Alexander Vinnikov said the conference was "a valuable opportunity to hear a range of views and engage in an open discussion about the key security challenges facing Central Asia and Afghanistan, as well as possible ways forward post-2014". This was echoed by UWED Rector Dr Nodir Jumaev who also applauded the event as a "platform for reflecting upon opportunities and challenges ahead for both NATO and Central Asian countries, which will be useful for our students and researchers".
The next in this series of PfP anniversary conferences dedicated to Central Asia, Afghanistan and regional security will take place in Kazakhstan on 9-10 October, with similar events expected in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan in November.
The event was organised with the support of NATO's Public Diplomacy Division and the office of the NATO Liaison Officer in Central Asia.
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