In January 1992, Uzbekistan was admitted to the United Nations (UN) and the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe and agreed to abide by their many conventions and declarations including those on human and political rights and peaceful settlement of disputes. In addition, Uzbekistan agreed to honor all relevant international commitments of the Soviet Union. It has applied to join the World Trade Organization (WTO) and is establishing diplomatic relations with countries around the world.
Uzbekistan seeks working relations with Russia that do not overly compromise its independence. Russia and Uzbekistan signed a Friendship Treaty in 1992 that includes collective security provisions. Uzbekistan, Russia, Armenia, and other Central Asian states signed a collective security pact in 1992, calling for mutual assistance in the case of aggression against the parties. Uzbekistan withdrew from this pact in early 1999, citing sovereignty issues, but in late 1999 stressed that it supported stepped-up bilateral security arrangements with Russia. Karimov refused to join an expanded customs union formed by Russia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan in 1996, calling its terms "categorically unacceptable" to Uzbekistan's independence. Many in Uzbekistan argue that it should be the "big brother" in relations with the rest of Central Asia. Uzbeks make up over 50% of Central Asians and, like Russians, are the targets of attacks by nationalist extremists in Tajikistan and elsewhere. Karimov has eschewed such rhetoric but seeks to play a leading regional role. Karimov reportedly contributed arms and troops to help rout anti-government forces in Tajikistan in late 1992 and its troops were part of CIS "peacekeeping" forces sent to guard borders in Tajikistan. In late 1998, Tajik President Rakhmonov accused Karimov of supporting an uprising in northern Tajikistan. Karimov rejected the accusation and pulled Uzbekistan's 140–150 "peacekeeping" troops out of Tajikistan.
President Karimov's priority in foreign policy has been to establish good relations with regional powers such as Russia and Turkey, though he has also pursued ties with the United States and other nations. Karimov has raised concerns about the threat Islamic fundamentalism in Afghanistan poses to Uzbekistan and the region. As a member of the UN-sponsored "6 plus 2" Afghan peace group, he hosted July 1999 peace talks. Karimov and other officials have voiced concerns about Iran's economic ties with Turkmenistan and other activities in the region. Recently, however, he has praised Iran's role in mediating the Tajik and Afghan civil wars and called for increased trade. Relations with Turkey have been friendly and it is the biggest investor in Uzbekistan. In March 1999, Turkish President Suleyman Demirel visited Uzbekistan and Karimov hailed Turkey as "our closest supporter, friend and brother," but by mid-1999 tensions had arisen over Turkey's hesitancy to hand over suspects in a bombing incident in Uzbekistan. Ties with the United States have strengthened with Uzbekistan's support of the U.S. efforts against terrorist activity in Afghanistan. Uzbekistan became the main military ally of the United States in Central Asia, and allowed for over 1,000 troops to be deployed in southern Uzbekistan near the Afghan border. Uzbekistan also received US $160 million in aid in early 2002.
Influenced heavily by their own individual relationships with the United States, European Union (EU), and Russia, Central Asian nations were forced to choose sides in the diplomatic stand-off in Iraq in early 2003 between the United States and the United Kingdom (UK) positions on the one hand, and those of France, Germany, and Russia on the other. Uzbekistan backed the U.S. position on forcibly disarming the Saddam Hussein regime, and Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan leaned toward the more European viewpoint. Karimov in March 2003 declared his full support for Washington, stating that the existence of chemical weapons in Iraq was like a genie in a closed bottle, and that if the bottle were to be opened, it would be impossible to close it again. He also stated that if Iraq's chemical weapons were not destroyed, they might fall into the hands of terrorists, which would lead to an uncertain future.