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Uzbekistan opens door to Central Asian integration

End of isolationism eases regional transport issues, but obstacles remain

Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev reopened direct train services from Tashkent’s central station, above, to Almaty in March. (Photo by Naubet Bisenov)

KELES STATION, Uzbekistan -- A train pulls slowly out of Tashkent's shiny railway station, only to grind to a halt half an hour later at Keles, on the Uzbek side of the border with Kazakhstan.

"It will now stand idle here for an hour or so until Uzbek customs and border officers complete checks of passengers' documents and belongings," sighs Marziya Beysenbayeva, a septuagenarian woman travelling home to Almaty. "At least we are sitting in our air-conditioned compartment, not standing under the scorching sun," she said, referring to long delays suffered by travelers at overcrowded land crossings between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

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