- The Washington Times - Monday, July 4, 2005

Central Asian rights

Europe’s largest security organization believes it can help the former Soviet republics in Central Asia break free of their authoritarian past and adopt democratic values.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe must develop a comprehensive strategy to help Central Asia make the transition to representative governments, said Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, who also is the chairman of the OSCE.

Speaking at the annual OSCE conference that ends today in Washington, Mr. Rupel urged the delegates to use the uprising for democracy in Kyrgyzstan in March as a model. The OSCE, which opened an office there in 1998, provided active assistance to the protesters who forced the resignation of President Askar Akayev, who was accused of widespread corruption. A presidential election is set for July 10.

“I believe that we should be ambitious and follow up our considerable engagement in Kyrgyzstan with a more comprehensive strategy for assisting all the state of Central Asia on their path to full democracy,” he told the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly on its opening day of the conference on Friday.

“Bearing in mind, too, its partnerships with Afghanistan and Mongolia, the OSCE is well-placed to lead this. It could increase its added value in the region, including through the promotion of regional economic cooperation.”

He called for coordinated efforts among all OSCE institutions “together with field operations on the spot.”

“All have a role to play, and this should be coordinated in a more holistic way,” Mr. Rupel said.

He also called on the authorities in Uzbekistan to allow an independent international investigation into the government crackdown on a pro-democracy demonstration in the town of Andijan on May 13. Some reports accuse the government of killing hundreds of unarmed civilians.

“I urge the Uzbek authorities to remain open to international cooperation and to live up to their international commitments,” Mr. Rupel said. “Security in Central Asia … is of concern to the whole OSCE community and requires cooperative solutions.”

Mr. Rupel discussed the Uzbek situation when he met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week. He raised the issue of Uzbek refugees who fled the government crackdown and are now in neighboring Kyrgyzstan.

Central Asian nations Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan are members of the 55-nation OSCE, which also includes the United States.

French agenda

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy, on his first U.S. visit, will emphasize Europe’s desire for strong relations with the United States when he meets today with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a French spokesman said.

“Both sides realize that there’s a wish, in spite of what’s happened in the European Union, to maintain a strong and dynamic relationship between the EU and the U.S. [and] to show that the EU remains a privileged interlocutor for the United States,” the spokesman from the French Foreign Ministry told reporters in Paris.

Mr. Douste-Blazy met Miss Rice briefly at the recent meeting in London of the leaders of the world’s eight leading industrialized nations, but today’s meeting “will afford the opportunity for more thorough talks,” the spokesman said.

His emphasis on the relevance of the European Union follows referendums in which French and Dutch voters rejected the proposed European constitution and threw EU leaders into confusion over the future of the document.

“There is no pre-set list of issues, but it’s conceivable a number of issues will be discussed. First of all, trans-Atlantic relations as a whole, seen in the somewhat special light of the present situation in Europe,” the spokesman said.

Mr. Douste-Blazy also will meet with French business executives and representatives of American-Jewish organizations today. He will visit former President Bill Clinton tomorrow.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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