'Novruz Summit' to be held in autumn

Victoria Panfilova, columnist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, specially for Vestnik Kavkaza
'Novruz Summit' to be held in autumn

The summit of Central Asian leaders will be held in Tashkent on November 29. This will be the second consultative meeting of the regional leaders, without the participation of representatives of non-regional states. Its main goal is regional cooperation. The format of informal meetings was proposed by President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev. The first summit was held in Astana on his own initiative (the former name of the Kazakh capital, now it is Nur-Sultan) under the chairmanship of Nursultan Nazarbayev, who invited his colleagues to meet on the eve of the Novruz holiday annually and invited everyone to Tashkent.

That's how they came up with the 'Novruz Summit' title. However, the consultative meeting of the heads of state scheduled for March was postponed due to the Uzbek president's busy schedule. The meeting will take place in late autumn - on November 29. There is an intrigue in relation to President of Turkmenistan Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov's participation in the summit. He refused to come to Astana, referring to an urgent visit to Qatar, sending Speaker of Parliament Akja Nurberdiyeva instead of himself. Experts said than that Turkmenistan is not ready for closer regional cooperation, it is satisfied with the existed level of bilateral relations with neighboring countries. However, over the past year, Berdymukhamedov hosted the CIS summit in Ashgabat and held a number of bilateral meetings with the heads of neighboring states. Therefore, they are waiting for him in Tashkent.

New president of Kazakhstan Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev will take part in the summit for the first time. New proposals are expected from Tokaev, because Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are known as locomotives of regional integration. They already say in Kazakhstan that Uzbekistan "has flooded" the country with its goods.

During the first summit, the heads of state said that this format does not aim to form a new alliance with supranational institutions. The heads of state are aimed at developing regional cooperation. This is also indicated by the agenda of the upcoming event, which was presented at a meeting in Tashkent on November 15 by the ministers of foreign affairs of the regional countries. In particular, the leaders of five states will discuss issues of trade, economic and investment cooperation, development of transport infrastructure, scientific and technical, cultural and humanitarian cooperation.

First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan Ilkhom Nematov said that, according to the first summit's results, "solutions were found on the most complex issues that hadn't been addressed for more than 15 years for subjective reasons." In particular, the border agreements were signed with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. Talks on border demarcation with Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan are being successfully and intensively conducted. Issues of water use are being addressed based on mutual respect and consideration of interests. "As the President of Uzbekistan has repeatedly noted, our country is committed to maintaining the good-neighbour policy and mutually beneficial cooperation in the region for the benefit of the prosperity of our common home - Central Asia," Nematov said.

"Uzbekistan continues to search for optimal formats for cooperation with neighbors, including on security issues, stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan, using the Uzbek experience," head of the Center for Central Asia and Caucasus Studies at the Russian Academy of Sciences, Stanislav Pritchin, told Vestnik Kavkaza. The expert recalled a recent incident with the seizure of a border outpost in Tajikistan.

The Tajik security services reported an attack by ISIS fighters (banned in Russia). The President was in Europe that day. Upon his return, he convened a meeting of the Tajik Security Council and criticized the generals of the national security committee. "If you have no information about three or four terrorists preparing for an attack for several months, then what is your job?" asked the president. He never once remembered the ISIS fighters, much less the breakthrough of the border from Afghanistan. Most likely, it was an ordinary shoot-out, which the security forces tried to present as a terrorist attack.

Nevertheless, the issue of security remains relevant for Central Asian countries. "The Central Asian countries are ready to jointly solve the region's problems. The parties demonstrate good intentions. The demonstration of a constructive spirit is an additional factor for optimism," researcher at the Institute of Oriental Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences Alexander Vorobyov told Vestnik Kavkaza. According to him, the players changed their rhetoric, their foreign policy behavior towards greater openness in relations with each other. Uzbekistan played a crucial role in that regard. Having great political and economic weight, it set the tone, trend towards a constructive attitude and a pragmatic approach. Other participants are forced to change their rhetoric.

The issue of Uzbekistan's accession to the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) can be another topic of discussion. "Since Uzbekistan is considering joining the EEU, the heads of state are likely to discuss this topic as well. They need to agree on a possible change in Uzbekistan's trajectory," Alexander Vorobyov believes.