The year kicked off with some good news for Central Asia, which I covered over at The Diplomat:
As such, when an opportunity arises for a bit of optimism, it is worth highlighting. The recent announcement that Uzbekistan would be restarting gas supplies to Kyrgyzstan is just such an opportunity. After over eight months without gas, southern Kyrgyzstan will finally access the gas – some 100 million cubic meters – it’s gone without as it enters mid winter.
The reasons for the restart of Uzbek gas remain opaque. Tashkent originally blocked gas flows four days after Russia’s Gazprom purchased Kyrgyzstan’s state gas matrix for $1 and forgave its debt. Uzbekistan, by all appearances, actually appeared to be in the right with its decision to shut off supplies, as it was not consulted on the sale as contractually demanded. But when a December meeting between Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov and Russian President Vladimir Putin seemed to yield no resolution, Tashkent abruptly allowed the gas to flow to Kyrgyzstan once more on December 30. No reason has yet been given for the decision to open the transit, although it’s worth pointing to a notable warming in relations between Uzbekistan and Russia in the past few months.