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Uzbek Official Pours Cold Water on Customs Union Membership

© RIA Novosti . Alexey Babushkin / Go to the photo bankTashkent
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A leading lawmaker in Uzbekistan on Wednesday poured cold water on the prospect of the Central Asian nation joining a Moscow-led trade bloc, saying that relations with Russia would continue to be developed on a one-on-one basis.

TASHKENT, November 13 (RIA Novosti) – A leading lawmaker in Uzbekistan on Wednesday poured cold water on the prospect of the Central Asian nation joining a Moscow-led trade bloc, saying that relations with Russia would continue to be developed on a one-on-one basis.

Sodik Safayev, head of the Senate’s foreign affairs committee and a former foreign minister, was responding to remarks by a top Uzbek official the day before that appeared to signal a potential shift of course by the ex-Soviet nation.

Senate speaker Ilgizar Sobirov told journalists on Tuesday in a possibly unguarded remark after a meeting with his visiting Russian counterpart that Uzbekistan was positively disposed to joining the Customs Union, which currently also comprises Kazakhstan and Belarus.

But Safayev insisted that the subject of Uzbekistan’s accession had not come up in talks between Sobirov and Russian Federation Council speaker Valentina Matviyenko.

“It was not on the agenda. We discussed issues concerning bilateral relations,” Safayev said.

Safayev said there had been no change in Uzbekistan’s previous stance.

Uzbekistan has for many years resisted full participation in economic and military regional alliances, in particular those dominated by Russia.

In mid-2012, Uzbekistan pulled out of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, a military alliance built along the lines of NATO that draws together several post-Soviet states.

Safayev told the Voice of Russia radio station on Wednesday that Uzbekistan would remain out of the CSTO, but he said ties with Moscow remained a priority.

“In the sphere of security and military cooperation, the main priority for us is the development of collaboration with Russia, first and foremost,” Safayev said.

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