Uzbekistan's New Leader Vows To Stay Out of Russian Military Alliance

Putin and Mirziyoyev
Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, speaks with Uzbek interim President Shavkat Mirziyoyev after laying flowers at the grave of late Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, September 6. Mirziyoyev is expected to be elected Uzbekistan's second-ever president. Sputnik/Kremlin/Alexei Druzhinin/Reuters

Uzbekistan's new acting president has vowed not to enter into any military alliances with any nation, ruling out re-joining its neighbors in the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO).

Former Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev, who was appointed interim president on Thursday, unveiled his vision for the future of Uzbekistan to both houses of parliament on Friday. He insisted that the country will remain neutral militarily, but added he would pursue trade with Uzbekistan's neighbors, including both Russia and the U.S.

"We will continue our constructive cooperation with all foreign countries and communities in the world," he told lawmakers. "The categorical position of our country remains as it was before — not to join any military political blocs, opposing any deployments of foreign bases or facilities on the territory of Uzbekistan or sending our military abroad."

Uzbekistan was a member of Russia's CSTO, but pulled out in 2012, citing its desire to retain its sovereignty as a reason. The country's neighbors; Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan are all CSTO members.

Uzbekistan's new leader, however, underlined that diplomacy and trade with Russia's commonwealth of former Soviet states will remain the "main priority" of the country's foreign policy.

Mirziyoyev stressed that part of the strategic alliance will involve "the gradual progress and comprehensive strengthening of friendly relations with the Russian Federation."

The ex-prime minister spoke for the first time after becoming interim president on Thursday, succeeding late ruler Islam Karimov, who was confirmed dead last Friday, after persistent reports he had suffered a fatal stroke nearly a week earlier.

The country has never held elections that fulfilled international fairness standards and Mirziyoyev's first statement as acting head of state to lawmakers, suggested he planned to remain in power for longer than the standard three-month term for an interim leader.

Mirziyoyev was appointed interim leader, despite the constitution requiring the chairman of the senate to assume the role. During his long address, the acting president outlined his desire to continue Karimov's vision, describing the late strongman as "a priceless gift from the almighty."