EU Wants Action

by Nathan Hamm on 5/24/2005

The EU is weighing its options and threatening action to get Uzbekistan to agree to an inquiry into the Andijon massacre. Much like the US, the EU seems to be at a loss as to what to do at the moment other than to try to keep talking about the need for an investigation to make it impossible for Uzbekistan to let the issue die. The government is, after all, extremely sensitive to criticism. So sensitive, in fact, that I would be willing to bet it will overdo the reaction to calls for an inquiry already underway to the point that it will further ostracize itself. The EU already seems to be troubled by the Uzbek government’s insistence not to allow an investigation.

But member states will use “tough language” calling for an independent international inquiry into the violence and displacements in the country over the past ten days, a European Commission source said.

“It’s not just about the killings, but also about the way the authorities are responding to international investigators”, the commission contact noted. “This would not be a good time to abandon this country and our programmes there”.

The EU is also promising to keep the heat on until it gets what it wants.

“If President Karimov does not accept an international inquiry … we have referred to all of the diplomatic means that can be used to exert pressure,” Jean Asselborn, foreign minister of EU President Luxembourg, told a news conference.

He said the EU held diplomatic leverage over Uzbekistan as both are members of pan-European democracy and rights body, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and through a partnership agreement between Brussels and Tashkent.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw insisted the EU, which has limited commercial and political links with the ex-Soviet state of 26 million, could back its demands for an inquiry.

“We can bring a great deal of pressure to bear in Uzbekistan,” he told reporters.

“The questions about these killings will not go away unless and until there is an independent international inquiry,” he said on arrival at an EU foreign ministers’ meeting.

As for the US, yesterday’s press briefing with Richard Boucher indicates that the US is, for the time being, putting a lot of stock in working through the OSCE and NATO to pressure Uzbekistan to allow an investigation.

First, there was a statement May 20th on the situation by Foreign Minister Rupel, the Chairman-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. We very much support that call and we believe that a prominent role for the organization would be appropriate.

Our Ambassador, Jon Purnell, in Tashkent, has been in close touch with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Head of Mission in Tashkent. Our Deputy Assistant Secretary here, Laura Kennedy, is going to call — is getting together a meeting today of Uzbekistan’s neighbors, which is similar to the one that Assistant Secretary Fried did last week.

We’ve been in touch — Assistant Secretary Fried has been in touch with the Uzbek Ambassador here last Friday. He’s in Europe today. Nicholas Burns, our Under Secretary, is going out to the NATO meeting in Sweden where we expect that they will have a lot of contact with European Union and NATO counterparts on the issues of Uzbekistan.

I think there is a very clear and consistent point of view being conveyed by the international community that we want to see a credible and transparent investigation or inquiry into the events in Andijan and that Uzbekistan needs to respect human rights and respect — provide an open political environment so that people can have an outlet for their views and their desires.

He went on to say that the Uzbek government is showing no signs of giving in, but that the calls for an inquiry are increasingly coordinated and growing stronger. Boucher also all but said that Uzbekistan will receive no direct government aid from the US unless it allows a credible inquiry into the massacre and that what took place in Andijon certainly will be part of the determination in deciding whether or not to certify the aid this year. (I would assume it’s a foregone conclusion Uzbekistan will not be getting the aid under consideration unless it makes some dramatic change in the next few months.)

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Nathan is the founder and Principal Analyst for Registan, which he launched in 2003. He was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Uzbekistan 2000-2001 and received his MA in Central Asian Studies from the University of Washington in 2007. Since 2007, he has worked full-time as an analyst, consulting with private and government clients on Central Asian affairs, specializing in how socio-cultural and political factors shape risks and opportunities and how organizations can adjust their strategic and operational plans to account for these variables. More information on Registan's services can be found here, and Nathan can be contacted via Twitter or email.

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