Uzbekistan President Karimov is dead

Late President Islam Karimov,

Late President Islam Karimov,

Three diplomatic sources on Friday in a report in Tashkent confirmed the death of 78 years old, Uzbek President, Islam Karimov, after suffering a stroke.

The Uzbek government did not immediately confirm the reports but agreed that the health of Karimov, who has been in the hospital since last Saturday, had sharply deteriorated.

Karimov was long criticised by the West and human rights groups for his authoritarian style of leadership, Karimov had ruled Uzbekistan since 1989, first as the head of the local Communist Party and then as president of the newly independent republic from 1991.

Meanwhile, critics said that Turkish Prime Minister, Binali Yildirim, became the first foreign leader to offer condolences over the death of Karimov, whose former Soviet republic has close ethnic, cultural and linguistic ties with Turkey.

They said that Karimov did not designate a successor and said that the transition of power is likely to be decided behind closed doors by a small group of senior officials and family members.

“If they fail to agree on a compromise, however, open confrontation could destabilise Uzbekistan, which shares a border with Afghanistan and has become a target for Islamist militants.

They said that a hint at successor may come with the government’s announcement of his death,

“The funeral appeared likely to take place in Karimov’s hometown of Samarkand, where his mother and two brothers are also buried.

“Municipal authorities there mobilise public workers to clean the central streets late on Thursday,’’ they said.

The critics said that according to the constitution, Nigmatilla Yuldoshev, the Chairman of the Upper House of Parliament, is supposed to take over after Karimov’s death, and elections must take place within three months.

They noted that unfortunately the man was detained and thus eliminated from the line of succession.

They warned that whoever that succeeded Karimov would need to balance carefully between the West, Russia and China, which all vie for influence in the resource-rich Central Asian region.

They added that another task of the new leader would be resolving tensions with ex-Soviet neighbors Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan over borders and the use of common resources such as water.

Uzbekistan is a major cotton exporter and is also rich in gold and natural gas.