DUSHANBE, May 17, 2011, Asia-Plus  -- Tajik President Emomali Rahmon received visiting OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Ažubalis on May 16.

According to the presidential press service, President Rahmon congratulated Lithuania on taking over Chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, and noted that Tajikistan attached significance to expansion of cooperation with the OSCE.

The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, for his part, noted that Tajikistan was one important OSCE participating States.

The sides were reportedly of one mind that current cooperation between Tajikistan and the OSCE was developing in three areas: military and political component; economic and environmental activities; and humanitarian component.

In the course of the talks, the sides also discussed problems of rational use of water-and-energy resources in the region, environmental, transportation and transit problems in Central Asia.  They stressed that the OSCE potential might be used for resolving these problems, the presidential press service said.

In the  meantime, the OSCE Office in Tajikistan reports that Mr. Ažubalis said yesterday that the OSCE is working intensively to support Tajikistan in strengthening the management and security of its border with Afghanistan.

"Secure and well-managed borders are key to regional stability," he said. "The OSCE is working with Tajikistan to help strengthen its long border with Afghanistan. I welcome the adoption of the National Border Management Strategy last year, and I look forward its implementation. The OSCE can support in this process, if requested."

He also welcomed support by Tajikistan''s government for the OSCE Border Management Staff College, which is located in Dushanbe.  Established in May 2009, the College holds seminars and courses for border- customs and other officials from OSCE participating States and Partners for Cooperation, including Afghanistan.

"This support illustrates the special role Tajikistan plays in the OSCE, particularly when it comes to the Organization''s engagement with Afghanistan," Ažubalis said.

Speaking after meetings with President Emomali Rahmon and Foreign Minister Hamrokhon Zarifi, Ažubalis said he had come to Tajikistan to express appreciation for the country''s work in the OSCE. He also said he offered the Organization''s continued support in fields including border management, police reform and work to fight corruption and promote the rule of law - especially reforms of the criminal justice system – as well as freedom of the media, which is one of the priorities of the 2011 Lithuanian OSCE Chairmanship. 

"During my meetings, I discussed the crucial role of an independent press in contributing to stability," he said. "I encourage Tajikistan''s government to continue working with the independent media to entrench the country''s democratic principles. I also hope that lawsuits against newspapers and journalists can be avoided – there is a risk that such cases stifle the media freedom we all treasure."

He also encouraged his counterparts to support a group of young Lithuanians who plan to travel to Tajikistan in June to identify and care for sites where Lithuanian deportees are buried, saying the group’s mission “strengthens the historical memory between our people.” The group has organized missions abroad over the past several years.

Ažubalis arrived Monday in Dushanbe for a two-day visit that also includes meetings with Shukurjon Zuhurov, the speaker of the lower house of Parliament, and representatives of political parties and civil society.