TASHKENT, December 18 (RIA Novosti) – Tashkent is looking for ways to strengthen strategic ties with Moscow despite Uzbekistan’s recent withdrawal from a Russian-led collective security organization, Uzbek President Islam Karimov said on Tuesday.
“Consolidation of bilateral relations is one of our priorities,” he said during a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, adding that “security matters are on our bilateral agenda.”
The meeting comes six months after Uzbekistan officially suspended its membership in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).
Lavrov said Russia regretted Uzbekistan’s decision in June to suspend its CSTO membership, but that Uzbekistan remained an ally.
“That is Uzbekistan’s sovereign choice. We regret the decision was made, but it was,” Lavrov said.
However, it is still possible to “synchronize and harmonize everything that is being done within the CSTO” on the bilateral level, he said, adding that the two countries have current agreements on deepening their partnership, as well as military cooperation programs.
Uzbekistan’s new foreign policy strategy rules out Tashkent’s membership in any military alliances and bans foreign military bases on Uzbek territory.
Uzbekistan previously withdrew from the CSTO in 1999 but then restored its membership in August 2006.