TASHKENT (AFP) - Uzbekistan lawmakers on Thursday approved a foreign policy bill which bans the creation of foreign military bases in the Central Asian country or its participation in military blocs.

The bill, which has yet to be signed by President Islam Karimov, outlines a “foreign policy concept” for Uzbekistan, a symbolic gesture of neutrality following tensions over its quitting a Russia-led military alliance.

The concept, initiated by Karimov, also states that the country will take all the measures against involvement in conflicts in neighbouring countries while its army will avoid peacekeeping missions abroad.

Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Komilov presented the bill to the Uzbek senate Thursday saying that “there will not be any bases or operations centres on our territory.”

He was referring to reports in Russian media which said Uzbekistan might host a regional operations centre for the United States after its pullout from Afghanistan in 2014.

The bill’s approval in the parliament follows Uzbekistan’s departure from a Russian-led regional alliance, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (ODKB), in June. The move was followed by reports that Tashkent is seeking closer ties with the US, a sensitive issue for Russia and China, both Uzbekistan’s partners and dominant actors in Central Asia.

Komilov also said Uzbekistan would not join any military blocs and would “reserve the right to leave any interstate structures if they become military-political blocs.”

Uzbekistan, a closed and mainly Muslim nation that is by far the biggest in the region in its population, lies north of Afghanistan and is a key link in the Northern Distribution Network, a supply line for US troops in Afghanistan.

Tashkent closed an airbase in 2005 which helped serve US troops following Western criticism of Uzbekistan’s handling of unrest in the city of Andijan.

Currently Nato ally Germany uses Uzbekistan’s Termez airport near Afghanistan and has about 300 people stationed there.  Komilov said however that the facility is a “logistical transit centre” rather than a military base, and does not allow military weapons on its territory, so the bill would not lead to its closure.