Uzbekistan's location, bordering the volatile Middle East, as well as its rich natural resources and commercial potential, thrust it into the international arena almost immediately upon gaining independence. During the early 1990s, wariness of renewed Russian control led Uzbekistan increasingly to seek ties with other countries. Indeed, little over a year after independence, Uzbekistan had been recognized by 120 countries and had opened or planned to open thirty-nine foreign embassies. Experts believed that in this situation Uzbekistan would turn first to neighboring countries such as Iran and Turkey. Although the cultural kinship and proximity of those countries has encouraged closer relations, Uzbekistan also has shown eagerness to work with a range of partners to create a complex web of interrelationships that includes its immediate Central Asian neighbors, Russia and other nations of the CIS, and the immediate Middle Eastern world, with the goal of becoming an integral part of the international community on its own terms.
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