Turkmen, Uzbek Presidents Unveil Monument To Uzbekistan’s Late Leader

Turkmenistan has unveiled a monument to Islam Karimov, the late leader of neighboring Uzbekistan, in a gesture that comes as the two former Soviet republics in Central Asia seek to improve ties.

The unveiling of the monument in the city of Turkmenabat on the border with Uzbekistan on March 7 was attended by Uzbekistan's visiting President Shavkat Mirziyaev and Turkmenistan's President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

The two presidents on March 7 also opened a new bridge across the Amu Darya River at Turkmenabat.

The bridge on the M37 motorway is about 15 kilometers from a border crossing between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Mirziyaev arrived in Turkmenistan on March 6 for a two-day visit.

On March 6, the two presidents agree upon closer cooperation on a project to export electricity to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

They said they also agreed to try to work together more on developing trans-Caspian transport routes to South Caucasus and further on to Europe.

The two also signed what they called a "strategic cooperation agreement" on March 6.

That agreement is aimed at increasing cooperation in the fight against terrorism, Islamic extremism, and cross-border crime -- including illegal drug trafficking.

In a joint statement, they expressed the shared view that a settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan is "possible only through peaceful, political means on the basis of a broad national dialogue."

They also said that both Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan favor "active international support to the Afghan government and promotion of Afghanistan's integration into regional and international economic processes."

Mirziyaev, prime minister for 13 years, became Uzbekistan's acting president after Karimov's death was announced in September 2016.

Mirziyaev has talked of improving ties with the other former Soviet republics in Central Asia, and has taken some steps in that direction.

His visit to Turkmenistan comes a week after Russian President Vladimir Putin visited Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan on a Central Asia trip that bypassed Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

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