Did de Gucht go to Tashkent? – Updated

by Nathan Hamm on 4/3/2006 · 15 comments

Update II: I heard back from Bruce Pannier and Rudy Huygelen, the spokesman for the Belgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (but not the OSCE’s press person). Mr. Huygelen referred me to the OSCE press release and said that de Gucht met the President, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and representatives of the NGO sector. Mr. Pannier said that none of the schedules that they had in the office for de Gucht’s trip mentioned him stopping in Uzbekistan. He mentioned speaking to people in Brussels and Vienna none of whom knew much about the stop in Uzbekistan. One even told Pannier that he hadn’t found out about the Afghanistan and Uzbekistan stops until de Gucht was already in Afghanistan and mere hours from leaving for Tashkent.

Update: The weekend hypothesis is correct. The OSCE now has on their site a release concerning de Gucht’s trip to Tashkent.

So, this time: UzA & Regnum – 1; RFE/RL – 0

Original Post
Yesterday, James posted about OSCE Chairman/Belgian Foreign Minister Karel de Gucht’s Central Asia visit. James noted that Uzbekistan was left of de Gucht’s itinerary and said that it is a sign of Uzbekistan’s diplomatic isolation from the West.

But, did de Gucht really leave Uzbekistan out? James linked to a EurasiaNet story, the link for which is now dead. Based on the passage he quoted, it appears that they were running this RFE/RL story. Two comments to the post at neweurasia say that de Gucht did in fact visit Tashkent and that he met with Karimov. UzA, for example, mentions a meeting at Oqsaray between the President and Chairman. Regnum also has a story on the visit.

Who is wrong here?

If one searches for stories on de Gucht in Google News, the latest have to do with Georgia. Visit the press office for the Belgian Foreign Ministry, and one finds press releases concerning de Gucht’s visits to Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan as well as the Georgia statement. The situation’s the same at the OSCE press office. Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikstan are all mentioned as is the statement regarding Georgia. Uzbekistan is not there at all.

Now, I suppose it is possible that an Uzbekistan visit may not have appeared before everyone left the offices in Brussels and Vienna for the weekend. But I find it more likely that something funny is going on here and think it is much more likely that the something funny is that UzA and Regnum are reporting inaccurate news than that RFE/RL, the OSCE, and the Belgian Foreign Ministry are all engaged in covering up de Gucht’s visit to Uzbekistan.

I have sent an email to Bruce Pannier, the author of the RFE/RL story, and will send inquiries to the OSCE and Belgian Foreign Ministry press offices. But, in the meantime, does anyone have more information on what is going on here?

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This post was written by...

– author of 2991 posts on 17_PersonNotFound.

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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James April 1, 2006 at 5:12 pm

Nice detective work, Nathan; I am very interesed to see what the truth is. Before I saw your post I sort of assumed that my post was overcome by events.

Brian April 1, 2006 at 6:51 pm

April fools?

Nathan April 1, 2006 at 8:24 pm

Not on my end. I considered it, but I don’t think UzA has that particular kind of sense of humor.

hamesha April 1, 2006 at 8:27 pm

Hi all,
I read recently that my country Afghanistan is a new candidate for membership into the OSCE. Can you please point me to some useful links about this organization?

Jack April 2, 2006 at 4:27 am


OSCE head visited Uzbekistan and video feed with de Gucht and Karimov with participation of Uzbek Foreign Minister Elyor Ghaniev and delegates of the OSCE.

The meeting took place on Saturday, 1 April and I assume that OSCE office was on weekend holidays.

Besides, the Uzbek president’s web site http://www.press-service.uz also made report on the visit.

I have also read reports of Interfax and BBC Monitoring on the visit of de Gucht.

I think RFE/RL made wrong reports and mislead readers. This is usual case for them.

Jack April 2, 2006 at 5:07 am

Here is link to OSCE release.


Nathan April 2, 2006 at 10:33 am

Thanks Jack. That’s one of the possible explanations I thought of. I figured RFE/RL would have been on top of things. I think they’re usually accurate, but live and learn.

Laurence April 2, 2006 at 10:45 am

Congratulations, Nathan! It wasn’t April Fool’s after all…

Jack April 2, 2006 at 10:36 pm

Hi Nathan,

Well, you are right – live and learn. I also respected RFE/RL. But now not. I amazed how some news agencies destort situation both in Uzbekistan and other parts of Soviet Union.

Nathan April 2, 2006 at 11:41 pm

Well, I still respect them, but this is a sign that I need to be more skeptical of them, especially when they’re doing analytical pieces. I emailed Bruce, the author of their story, and I hope I get a response addressing how this happened.

Laurence April 3, 2006 at 8:15 am

Yes, Nathan, I hope Bruce Pannier answers your questions…

Dan April 3, 2006 at 10:52 am

As usual, Laurence is reserving his snearing and sniffy posturing for RFE/RL rather than focusing on the real issues here i.e. Karimov and what the OSCE said to him. Instead of sitting at home blogging about your cats and writing worthless books on Masterpiece Theater, try learning something about Central Asia.

What happened here is almost certainly that the Uzbeks held off on confirming a visit until the very last moment, too late probably for the OSCE or Belgian press releases and too late for the RFE/RL story. They then changed their mind and decided they would meet and so it happened. Not a great lapse on the part of Bruce Pannier or anyone else. Laurence, you should keep your mad paranoia about the media, NGOs and others in check. You just sound deranged.

Nathan April 3, 2006 at 11:03 am

Dan, you’re reading a bit much into Laurence’s comment there.

If Laurence wants to blog about non-Central Asia stuff, that’s entirely his prerogative. Heck, sometimes all I want to write about are my cats and celebrity gossip.

Rustam April 3, 2006 at 12:27 pm

Agree with Dan. It is very strange, it seems that Europe and the US can not make up their minds about the dictator Karimov, more correctly, the strategy is – say one thing and do totally the other. And it is after all these tough words, reports of AI, HRW, ICG, FH and articles of Patten…
In centrasia.ru on Sunday there was an excellent, informative as well as disturbing article written by Talib Yakubov, Chairman of the Human Rights Organization of Uzbekistan, although I heard a lot of damaging information about him, I guess the courtesy of SNB, in which he talks about his disappointment with the OSCE, that as he says before, human rights activists used to meet with the Chairman of the OSCE and tell her/him about the situation in Uzbekistan, their concerns, Chairmans of OSCE were more decisive when it came to releasing human rights activists from jails in Uzbekistan. However, he continues, this time, before they were to meet with the Chairman of the OSCE Mr. de Gucht, they were specifically told by the employees of the Uzbek office not to talk about Andijon and about the clean up of human rights activists afterwards. More interestingly, Mr. de Gucht after all did not come to the meeting. i.e. he implies that this meeting was organised by the OSCE to report in Brussels that they had this meeting. AND MOST INTERESTING, he writes that out of 8 organizations invited there was only him, his organization representing human rights issues in Uzbekistan. EVEN better, he says that although he was told not to speak about Andijan events, the chairman of one of the Jewish organizations which, as he was told by that chairman himself, was undertaking research on terrorism in cooperation with OSCE started to talk about Andijan, when the members of the Mr. de Gucht’s delegation present there asked whether he thinks that the events that took place in Andijon were terrorist event that person, as Yakubov puts it, told the same official version, line. EVEN BETTER, as Yakubov puts it, he always used to write an official letter and used to read all what was written in it, so everyone would be aware what kind of letter was given to him, that he was aware of the situation, and give it to the Chairman so that the Chairman of the OSCE could give to the President when he meets it, so as to say don’t bull shit me Mr. President. So this time as well, he started to read this letter BUT he was shortly stopped by one of the OSCE delegates, saying that there is no need to do it, i.e. they did not even want to hear about, like one of those stories – I did not see this, or even better “to my best knowledge this question was not brought to my attention” – perfect.
Take a look at this story at the centrasia.ru, it is astonishing!!!

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