By Ian Davis, NATO Watch
A NATO regional office was opened in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, on 16 May. The NATO Liaison Officer for Central Asia will work to facilitate cooperation between the Alliance and all countries in the region: Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. The office was officially opened during a visit by the NATO Secretary-General's Special Representative for Central Asia and the Caucasus, James Appathurai. He also opened the first NATO Depository Library in Uzbekistan at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy (UWED) in Tashkent.
The NATO Liaison Officer will work directly with authorities of Central Asian countries in order to maximize their partnership with the Alliance in support of the goals identified in their respective cooperation programmes. More specifically, the office is expected to cooperate in defence planning and analysis, military education and training, scientific and environmental issues and support NATO operations.
Uzbekistan has been a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace programme since 1994. In 2005, following the controversy over the suppression of the Andijan Uprising, cooperation between NATO and Uzbekistan stalled. Cooperation resumed in 2008, however, when NATO signed an agreement with Uzbekistan on the destruction of the country's stockpile of toxic rocket fuel components. In 2009, Uzbekistan joined the so-called 'northern route' for the delivery of non-lethal materials to international forces in Afghanistan.
During his visit, Appathurai also discussed with Uzbek Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and Defence Minister Kabul Berdiev the situation in Afghanistan ahead of NATO troops' withdrawal by the end of 2014. The US and its NATO allies have been encouraging Tashkent to participate in infrastructure projects in Afghanistan, including building railways, bridges, and power transmission lines.