ENGRUS

Uzbekistan Eases Visa Rules for Visiting Tajiks

Uzbekistan has lifted visa requirements for Tajik citizens visiting the country for the day — a gesture of goodwill that will ease travel out of Tajikistan by offering a fresh transit option.

Tajikistan exists in something of a travel blackspot connected by airlines to only a few major cities. And tickets are expensive to boot.
Meanwhile, the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, has direct flights to Paris, London, Milan, New York, Singapore, Tokyo and Minsk, among other cities.

A visa regime has been in place between the two countries since 2000 — the result of worsening diplomatic ties. But the ill-feeling at the official level has been gradually dissipating since the death of Islam Karimov and the ascent to power of his successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev.

In the early days of this rapprochement, the two countries reached an agreement on restarting direct flights between their respective capitals, but demand has been weak and the schedule only allows for one flight a week.

In another related development, there are imminent plans to open a new border crossing, between the Uzbek town of Urgut and Panjakent on the Tajik side. A border terminal is under construction, as is a fresh road joining the two countries.

This particular crossing was closed seven years ago at Uzbekistan’s initiative. Following that decision, residents of Panjakent — a near-border town that contains settlements of ethnic Uzbek communities — wishing to make the trip to Uzbekistan had to make a 600 kilometer overland trip to the nearest crossing. This killed off what had until then been a shuttle trading business that brought much-needed income for Tajiks living near the border.

The warming of ties has already had tangible economic results. At the close of a trade fair of Uzbek goods in Dushanbe in April, commercial agreements worth $50 million were signed among enterprises from the two countries. In the first five months of 2017, bilateral trade turnover reached $70 million, a sixfold increase over the same period a year earlier.