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Weekly news wrap

This week in Central Asia there were renewed signs of discontent in Kyrgyzstan, after meetings between members of the opposition and the government of President Kurmanbek Bakiev failed to reach agreement over reform.

On Friday thousands of opposition supporters rallied for a second day in the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, against Bakiev, following a dispute over proposed political reforms that would curtail the president’s power.

The political crisis has kindled fears of a repeat of last year’s so called “Tulip Revolution”, which brought Bakiyev and Kulov to power, with authorities warning of plans for a coup by the opposition.

Speaking on Kyrgyz television, Prime Minister Feliks Kulov said that any attempt to destabilise the country would be severely suppressed.

Eighteen months after the new government took power, according to the BBC, many in the mountainous nation believe the new government has failed to deliver on its promises, saying Kyrgyzstan is still too poor, too corrupt and too undemocratic.

The current crisis was prompted on Thursday when Bakiyev failed to submit a proposal on an immediate constitutional reform that would seriously curb his powers and broaden the authority of parliament.

In Tajikistan, political upheaval seemed less likely as residents in that country prepared to go to the polls next Monday to determine whether incumbent President Emomali Rakhmonov would extend his 14-year rule over the impoverished former Soviet republic or not.

The election “is a performance for which the script has been written in advance,” deputy head of the opposition Democratic Party, Rahmatullo Valiyev, was quoted by AFP as saying.

Rakhmonov was elected for a seven-year term following controversial constitutional changes in 2003 that allow him to stand for another two terms of office, the report added.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) says Finnish parliamentarian Kimmo Kiljunen will head its short-term election mission during the 6 November Tajik polls.

The organisation had said that it expected its mission to be 100-strong. The OSCE’s Office for the Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) earlier this month deployed 25 long-term observers to monitor the election campaign.

Meanwhile, as part of a continuing tour of several Central Asian states, German Foreign Minister Frank Walter Steinmeier criticised Turkmenistan for its slow progress in implementing essential reforms, saying the largely desert, but energy rich state was a long way from democracy after meeting its autocratic leader, President Saparmurat Niyazov.

“In Turkmenistan the road to democracy and rule of law is taken too slowly,” Reuters quoted him as saying. Steinmeier is visiting the region before Berlin takes over the rotating European Union (EU) presidency in January.

The EU wants to assume a more assertive role in the region by prodding leaders towards democracy while securing energy ties, the report said.

In Uzbekistan this week, the EU expressed readiness to ease sanctions against Tashkent at the upcoming EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, provided that the government of Uzbek President Islam Karimov provided clear assurances that it would improve its human rights record.

According to the EU Observer, an independent online news service providing up-to-date coverage on the EU, Tashkent had yet to meet any of the conditions stipulated in last year’s EU resolution following a violent government crackdown in the southeastern city of Andijan.

In fact, reports out of the country suggested that human rights in Central Asia’s most populous state had actually worsened, activists say.

Upwards of 1,000 people may have been killed in Andijan according to some rights groups when government forces opened fire on anti-government protestors on 13 May 2005, a charge the Uzbek authorities have flatly denied, saying only 187 had been killed.

In the days that followed, hundreds of Andijan protestors fled to neigbouring Kyrgyzstan seeking refuge – further strengthening the case against Tashkent and international calls for independent investigation.

Today, Germany is reportedly suggesting cutting Uzbek sanctions to an arms embargo only, citing that the sanctions had achieved nothing except to push Tashkent closer to Moscow, the UPI news agency reported, with the EU Observer saying that the EU was seeking to “to establish a long-term energy and security foothold in Central Asia.

The sanctions would lapse on 17 November unless renewed by all 25 member states on 13 November, the UPI report added.

On Wednesday, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan painted a very grim picture of the human rights situation in the landlocked nation, including reports of torture, harassment and a lack of access, calling on the government for improvement.

While welcoming the Uzbek decision to abolish the death penalty by 2008, Annan encouraged the authorities to immediately introduce a moratorium on the passing of death sentences, stressing the importance of implementing recommendations by UN treaty bodies and urging Uzbek officials to cooperate with UN experts, particularly in allowing access.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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