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Deiss signs treaties with Uzbekistan

Deiss with his Uzbek counterpart, Abdulaziz Kamilov

(Keystone)

The Swiss foreign minister, Joseph Deiss, has signed two bilateral treaties with Uzbekistan during the second day of his tour of Central Asian countries.

The accords, signed with the Uzbek foreign minister, Abdulaziz Kamilov, deal with reforming taxation and facilitating freight transport between the two countries.

The agreements are part of a move to increase political and economic ties with Uzbekistan, considered the country with the greatest economic potential in the region.

Deiss said he also hoped to forge closer links with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, which he will be visiting later this week.

Switzerland represents the three Asian republics at the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The government has spent around SFr107 million ($64 million) in development aid for the region.

"We feel that we have some responsibility in our partnership with these central Asian countries, since they're members of our constituency in the IMF," Deiss told swissinfo. "So we hope to intensify our relations both on an economic and political level."

Another agreement, aimed at strengthening financial and technical development, was also signed on Wednesday.

Political reform

Deiss also stressed the importance of continued administrative reforms in the former Soviet republics.

"These countries are working on the transition to democratic, market economies and there's still a lot to be done," Deiss explained, adding the Swiss parliamentary model could serve as an example for reform.

Deiss is the first Swiss foreign minister to visit the region since they won independence from the former Soviet Union ten years ago.

Stability in Afghanistan

The foreign minister said he was anxious that the Central Asian countries should not be overlooked in light of events of nearby Afghanistan.

"These countries are neighbours and they're involved and interested in stability in Afghanistan," Deiss said. "For example, as a land-locked country, Uzbekistan's shortest way to a port is via Afghanistan or Pakistan. So it's important both for them and for us to have a safe situation there."

"We also hope to promote human rights, and, with their help, be more efficient in places like Afghanistan," he added.

On Thursday, Deiss will visit regions around the Aral Sea, before heading to Tajikistan in the evening.

by Anna Nelson and Vanessa Mock

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