- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 9, 2002

Central Asia disputes

Central Asia could be the next region to explode in violence because of hotly contested border disputes.

"If these issues fester, they will continue to complicate security in Central Asia and fuel state-to-state and local conflict," said David Lewis of the International Crisis Group (ICG).

A new ICG study details the disputes among Russa, China, Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

All have been involved in "high-stakes negotiations" to define their borders, the study says.

The collapse of the Soviet Union and independence for Central Asia opened "a Pandora's box of border disputes," involving thousands of square miles, it said.

"Strong-arm politics, economic pressures, shadowy backroom deals, nationalist sentiments, public dissatisfaction and an environment of mutual mistrust have marked this process," the ICG said.

Uzbekistan has even laid land mines along contested borders with Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan to prevent the incursions of militants from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.

In other cases, Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have enclaves within Kyrgyz territory, the ICG noted, calling them "geographically isolated 'islands.'"

The disputes have caused economic damage from cuts in energy and water supplies and the disruption of trade.

"The resolution of border issues peacefully and transparently would have a positive impact on regional security, economic cooperation, ethnic relations and efforts to combat drug trafficking and religious extremism," the study said.

"But progress has been slow, and no immediate breakthrough can be seen in the all too often antagonistic process that is defining the new map of Central Asia."

The ICG called on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to mediate the border disputes and urged the Central Asian nations to stop demarking their boundaries without consultations with neighboring countries.

The study also said land mines must be removed, visa issues simplified, consulates opened and border guards trained.

Warning to Yugoslavia

The United States is urging Yugoslavia to surrender accused war criminals or face potential cuts in American aid.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador for war crimes, went to Yugoslavia last week to try to persuade President Vojislav Kostunica to cooperate with the International Criminal Tribunal for Yugoslavia, which is prosecuting war crimes from Yugoslavia's civil wars in the 1990s.

Mr. Prosper told reporters in Belgrade on Friday that Yugoslavia had only a few days to comply with the U.S. demand or Washington might freeze $40 million in aid marked for reconstruction of the country.

"Everyone recognizes that time is running out, action must be taken and we need to see cooperation," he said, according to news reports. "We don't take pleasure in doing this, but we would like to see Yugoslavia meeting its international obligations.

"We will see what happens in the coming days," Mr. Prosper added. "If they can take the steps required in order for us to be able to certify that they are cooperating with the tribunal."

Embassy in Sudan

American diplomats could return full time to Sudan soon, but the authoritarian government does not "deserve" U.S. representation at the ambassadorial level, State Department officials say.

The officials have told United Press International a permanent diplomatic presence is needed if the United States wants to help Sudan end its 19-year civil war. U.S. diplomats were withdrawn from Sudan in 1996 and operated from neighboring Kenya with occasional visits to the Sudanese capital, Khartoum.

The officials, who spoke to UPI on condition of anonymity, said Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was expected soon to order the return of the diplomats to help monitor an agreement between the National Islamic Front government and the rebel Sudan People's Liberation Movement.

"We have too many moving pieces now. All of that means a full-time presence is required," one official said.

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