Uzbekistan closes Tajikistan Border & Railway
May 24, 2010, Catherine
Uzbekistan has closed its border with Tajikistan due to the polio outbreak there, and has once again renewed its
rail blockade halting some 2,000 freight cars, ferghana.ru
reported, citing Ambassador Zafar Rakhimjanov,
Uzbekistan's envoy to Dushanbe. Only persons with diplomatic passports, citizens of third
countries, and citizens of Uzbekistan or Tajikistan with a valid funeral notification are allowed to cross. An unnamed
source in the State Committee for National Security of Tajikistan also
confirmed to ferghana.ru that the border had been
closed for 10 days. Uzbekistan is not letting through even Tajiks who
already possessed visas for Uzbekistan.
Tajikistan is experiencing its first outbreak of polio in over a decade, with 32
confirmed cases of children infected with the virus. Uzbekistan has responded by immunizing nearly 3 million children under the age
of five in the country's first national polio campaign since it was declared
polio-free in 2002.
Andrei Tropin, deputy chief of the freight service of the Tajik
Railroad told ferghana.ru that since May 18, Uzbekistan has not permitted cargo to pass through to Khatlon.
After 8 cars were let through on May 22, no more were allowed, and currently
969 cars are stalled that were bound for Khatlon with
petroleum products, construction materials and food, and 1,220 cars are
awaiting passage to Dushanbe. Tropin is concerned with the coming hot
weather, the risk of fires increase on the loads with oil and lubricants.
Tashkent had eased
up on the blockade last week, allowing 34 cars through to Tajikistan, but had complained of congestion due to the increased traffic to Afghanistan. There has been some speculation that Uzbekistan is deliberately halting the freight because it contains
construction materials destined for Roghun, the
hydropower station Tashkent is opposing due to concerns of the possible impact on its
irrigation-intensive cotton industry.