Ban to make first official visit to Central Asia

The Aral Sea: the raised land to the left used to be the shore. Photo: upyernoz

29 March 2010 – Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will head to Central Asia on Wednesday for a five-nation trip that will focus on boosting regional cooperation, disarmament, the environment and continuing efforts to attain the social and economic targets known as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

The trip to Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan will be Mr. Ban’s first visit to Central Asia since he became the United Nations chief in January 2007.

Mr. Ban will begin his official visit in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, where he will tour the UN Regional Centre for Preventive Diplomacy for Central Asia (UNRCCA) and the National Institute for Democracy and Human Rights, according to information released by his spokesperson today.

UNRCCA, which is headed by Miroslav Jenca, was launched at the end of 2007 with the aim of helping the five governments in the region to increase their capacities to peacefully prevent dialogue, facilitate dialogue and respond to cross-border threats and challenges such as terrorism, drug trafficking and environmental degradation.

While in Ashgabat, Mr. Ban is also slated to hold talks with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov.

The Secretary-General’s second stop will be in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where he will address the country’s Parliament and meet President Kurmanbek Bakiev and Foreign Minister Kadyrbek Sarbaev.

Mr. Ban then travels to Uzbekistan to see first hand the effects of ecological deterioration on the Aral Sea, once the world’s fourth-largest lake. In recent decades it has shrunk in size by more than 70 per cent after tributary rivers were diverted for irrigation projects. The salinity of the region’s soil has soared and the area is also heavily polluted.

The Secretary-General will hold talks in Uzbekistan with President Islam Karimov and deliver a lecture at the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent.

The fourth stop of the trip is in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, for discussions with that country’s President Emomali Rahmon and Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi.

Mr. Ban is next scheduled to visit Kazakhstan, where he will inspect the former nuclear test site of Semipalatinsk in the country’s northeast. He will also meet President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Foreign Minister Kanat Saudabayev.

While in the capital, Astana, the Secretary-General is expected to hold talks with representatives of the Assembly of the People of Kazakhstan and with the Speaker and other members of the national Parliament.

After visiting Central Asia, Mr. Ban will travel to Vienna for meetings with senior Austrian Government officials, including President Heinz Fischer and Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger.

He will also address the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and chair the spring session of the Chief Executives Board (CEB), the twice-yearly gathering of the heads of 27 agencies, funds and programmes within the UN system.

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