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A regional summit of the Central Asian Cooperation Organisation was held in the Tajik capital, Dushanbe, on Sunday. The heads of state of four Central Asian republics - Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan - discussed issues of regional development, particularly those affecting trade and economic cooperation.

The gathering also reviewed the activities of the International Fund for the Aral Sea, an interstate council founded nine years ago to launch humanitarian projects to resolve the crisis. The heads of state issued a joint declaration on the crisis, defining priorities for resolving it. They pledged to take steps to prevent the further drying up of the Aral Sea and to improve social and ecological conditions in the region.

Tajik President Emomali Rahmonov and his Uzbek counterpart, Islam Karimov, signed an accord on Saturday, on the demarcation of the border between their two countries. With some 86 percent of the 1,283-km-long border now defined, four areas in the Sogd region remain disputed. Last year Uzbekistan mined the porous border to defend itself against Islamic rebels. About 25 Tajik citizens have been killed in landmine blasts since then.

In Kazakhstan, indirect elections were held for the country's 39-seat senate, or upper house of parliament; of these, seven were filled by presidential nominees. Each of the country's 14 regions has two deputies, while the two largest cities, Almaty and the capital, Astana, also have two each. The parliamentarians were not elected on the basis of public balloting, but by regional councils after the approval of district committees.

A leading international think-tank on conflict resolution, the International Crisis Group (ICG), has urged the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to formulate a new strategic approach towards Central Asia. It argued that the OSCE’s existing stabilisation efforts were unlikely to succeed in the context of the region’s political, economic and cultural framework. The report also called on the OSCE to address the issue of the role of Islam in Central Asian politics.

Meanwhile, the IMF has praised improvements in Tajikistan’s economy. A visiting IMF delegation commended the country's ratio of over-eight percent growth of GDP and about seven percent inflation over the past eight months. The IMF and other international organisations are helping in poverty alleviation and economic development in the former Soviet republic.

US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) officials met representatives of the Central Asian states in Dushanbe on Monday to discuss mechanisms to stop the flow of drugs from neighbouring Afghanistan.

Tajik authorities reportedly believe that some 60 laboratories in northern Afghanistan bordering their country produce about 40 kg of heroin daily. Most of the drugs produced in Afghanistan are carried via Tajikistan to Russia and western Europe. The Tajik authorities reported having killed 39 drug smugglers this year during shoot-outs on the border with Afghanistan. In addition, some 700 people were arrested and charged with trafficking or possessing drugs.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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