By Kamila Aliyeva
The office of NATO for cooperation with Central Asian countries operating in Tashkent was closed on April 1 due to a change in the structure of the alliance's contacts in the region, RIA Novosti reported.
From now on, the alliance's work on Central Asia will be conducted from the NATO headquarters in Brussels.
The decision to close the office in Tashkent was taken in 2016. The NATO Liaison Officer in Central Asia Rosaria Puglisi earlier told reporters that the closure of the office is a result of an internal consideration of the budget.
"This decision is the result of internal budget considerations and doesn't have any political character," she said adding that "there was no pressure from Uzbekistan or from other states working with our office, on the contrary, we've always had a warm reception in the region."
The NATO liaison in Tashkent was opened in May 2014. A NATO liaison and interaction officer with Central Asian countries served as the diplomatic representative of the alliance and facilitated practical interaction with partners in the region in various directions.
NATO opened the office in order to coordinate the alliance's activities in the region. That meant, primarily, the logistics of moving war materiel in and out of Afghanistan, the then-special representative for the Caucasus and Central Asia.
All five Central Asian countries were early participants in the North Atlantic Cooperation Council – a forum for dialogue established by the Alliance in December 1991 as a first step in reaching out beyond the East-West divide to former Warsaw Pact members. This body was later replaced by the Euro-Atlantic Partnership Council in 1997.
Four out of the five countries quickly took advantage of the opportunities offered by the Partnership for Peace, joining this major program of practical bilateral cooperation shortly after its launch in 1994 (Tajikistan joined later, in 2002). At the Istanbul Summit of 2004, Allied leaders decided to make partnership with Central Asia, as well as the Caucasus, a priority for the Alliance.