109990 5/29/2007 11:49 07TASHKENT1029 Embassy Tashkent CONFIDENTIAL 07TASHKENT1029|07TASHKENT913|07TASHKENT989|07TASHKENT994 VZCZCXRO8758 PP RUEHDBU DE RUEHNT #1029/01 1491149 ZNY CCCCC ZZH P 291149Z MAY 07 FM AMEMBASSY TASHKENT TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7920 INFO RUEHAH/AMEMBASSY ASHGABAT 3057 RUEHTA/AMEMBASSY ASTANA 9189 RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1169 RUEHEK/AMEMBASSY BISHKEK 3663 RUEHBM/AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST 0068 RUEHDBU/AMEMBASSY DUSHANBE 3527 RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0867 RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0309 RUEHBS/USEU BRUSSELS RUEHVEN/USMISSION USVIENNA 0418 RUEHNO/USMISSION USNATO 1645 C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TASHKENT 001029
DEPT FOR SCA/CEN AND DRL
E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/29/2017 TAGS: PREL, PGOV, PHUM, EUN, UZ SUBJECT: UZBEKISTAN REACTS TO EU SANCTIONS DECISION
REF: A. USDAO TASHKENT UZ 211109Z MAY 07 B. TASHKENT 989 C. TASHKENT 913 D. TASHKENT 994
Classified By: CDA BRAD HANSON, FOR REASONS 1.4 (B, D)
1. (C) Summary: The Government of Uzbekistan reacted on several fronts to the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) decision on May 14 to prolong sanctions against Uzbekistan. The Foreign Ministry issued a critical statement; state-controlled media published negative stories; the Government refused visas to foreign officials and pulled officials from an international conference and training. According to an Embassy contact, the decision to prolong sanctions took President Karimov by surprise, as his senior officials had told him that the EU would remove sanctions. In a meeting with the Charge, the German Ambassador stressed that the EU's decision had not hampered bilateral cooperation with Uzbekistan. Visiting NATO officials were able to hold a business-like meeting with the Government. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Project Coordinator's Office believes the GOU increasingly views OSCE activities and presence through an EU lense. The OSCE is still awaiting approval on its six remaining projects for 2007. While the Uzbeks are clearly displeased, they nevertheless seek to continue cooperation with the EU on selected issues on their terms. End Summary.
EU Council Decides to Prolong Sanctions
2. (C) The EU's General Affairs and External Relations Council (GEARC) decided on May 14 to prolong for six months the sanctions of the visa ban against Uzbek officials. Earlier sanctions include a one-year arms embargo. However, the EU reduced the visa ban list from twelve to eight names. The German Defense Attache told emboffs that the four officials dropped from the list are Major General Kosimali Ahmedov, Head of the Chirchik Armor School; Saidullo Begaliyev, Andijon's former governor; Major General Ismail Ergashev, a former top Defense Ministry official; and Kadyr Gulyamov, who served as Minister of Defense during the Andijon events and was later tried and convicted of corruption and lives in Tashkent under house arrest. In their statement, EU ministers said they will review sanctions again if the GOU engages constructively on human rights, rule of law and fundamental freedoms.
3. (C) An Embassy contact in the Parliament suggested that the sanctions decision may have come as a surprise to President Karimov. The contact reported that Uzbek Ambassador to the Benelux Countries and NATO Isan Mustafoev and Chairman of the National Security Service Rustam Inoyatov had advised President Karimov that the EU would lift sanctions. According to the contact, Karimov is wary of growing Russian influence and seeks to improve relations with the EU as a counterbalance.
Official GOU Statement
4. (U) On May 15, the Foreign Ministry released a statement that called the EU's decision "unfounded and biased" and criticized the EU for using human rights rhetoric and sanctions as a means of applying "systematic pressure" on Uzbekistan. It also accused human rights groups, nongovernmental organizations and Western media of engaging in an "antigovernment anti-Uzbek information campaign." The statement was posted on the Foreign Ministry's website and published in several state-run newspapers.
5. (U) The state-controlled press criticized the EU for cynically using human rights concerns as a stick in its relations with Uzbekistan and for being influenced by particular countries. On May 25 in the "Novosti Uzbekistana" newspaper, political commentator Gennaidy Fond accused the EU
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of using the "post-Andijon" intrigue as a "geo-strategic bludgeon" to intimidate Uzbekistan. Likewise, on May 18, the English-language newspaper "Uzbekistan Today" wrote that the EU covets Central Asia's energy reserves and seeks to keep Uzbekistan on a "short leash" through its human rights rhetoric. On May 25 in the "Mohiyat" newspaper, Ibrohim Normatov vaguely alluded to a "powerful force from outside," presumably the United States, which influenced the EU's decision. The article also repeated the well-worn claim that "foreign violent forces had planned and tried to carry out" the Andijon events. On May 17 in the "XXI Asr" newspaper, journalist Abduvali Soibnazarov sharply rebuked Great Britain's "hypocritical" foreign policy and blamed the "groundless and biased ambitions" of countries such as Great Britain for the EU decision. On May 18 the national newspaper "Xalq Sozi" quoted several foreign politicians and journalists critical of the EU's decision. French publication "Bastille-Republique-Nation" Editor Pierre Levy is quoted as saying that the EU decision is "illegal, unjust and even dangerous" and represents a "double standard" in EU foreign policy.
Karimov Changes Mind on U.S.-Romanian Defense Symposium
6. (C) Following the EU decision, Uzbekistan pulled its officials from attending a NATO symposium in Romania. The Chief of the Ministry of Defense's Counterintelligence Department and a staff member had accepted an invitation from the Embassy's Office of Military Cooperation to attend a symposium on Black Sea and Caspian Sea Security co-hosted by Romania's Military Intelligence Directorate and the U.S. National Defense Intelligence College in Romania May 18-23. On May 15, the pair picked up their plane tickets in the afternoon, but later backed out that evening, claiming they were sick (ref A). According to the Embassy contact at the Human Rights Ombudsman Office, President Karimov had personally approved the officers' participation in the symposium, but then reversed his decision after the sanctions announcement and ordered the cancellation of all planned events with the United States and the EU. In addition, on May 17 two Uzbek officials scheduled to participate in a French-sponsored mountain warfare training event asked for the trip to be postponed and shortened, according to the French DCM.
7. (C) Following the EU decision, the GOU denied a visa without explanation to the Eurasia Foundation's Regional Director, who was invited to Tashkent to give a presentation at Westminster University. (Note: Eurasia Foundation, seeing the writing on the wall, did not fight court-ordered liquidation in 2006 and departed Uzbekistan. End Note). On May 17 the Foreign Ministry cancelled a meeting in Tashkent with two British consultants from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Human Rights, Good Governance and Democracy Department, claiming that it was "too busy." The Ministry had approved the trip before the EU sanctions decision, but later did not issue visas to the two Brits.
German Ambassador: No Backlash Bilaterally Nor Against NATO
8. (C) On May 21, German Ambassador Matthias Meyer told CDA that German bilateral cooperation with Uzbekistan continues despite the EU's decision. To explain the EU decision, Meyer met on May 15 with Deputy Foreign Minister for European Affairs Otabek Akbarov, who expressed displeasure with the EU's decision. Meyer believed President Karimov to be upset with the decision but noted that the issue of sanctions was not raised by officials of the Presidential Apparat in later discussions. After initial grumbling about the EU decision, Uzbek interlocutors conducted a businesses-like meeting with NATO officials on May 18 (ref B). Germany's use of the air base at Termez has not suffered any negative repercussions according to the German Ambassador. In an earlier discussion with Poloff, Meyer said that the Uzbeks are making too much money from the base to consider closing it (ref C). The
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German Ambassador also mentioned to the Charge that it was too early to tell if the GOU would continue its human rights dialogue with the EU.
9. (C) Meyer mentioned to the Charge that the GOU has refused to register the Goethe Institute in Tashkent and demanded its financial records. However, this case does not appear to be connected with the sanctions decision. Rather, the German Embassy, which largely funds the Goethe Institute's activities, may have made a tactical error by trying to register the institute with the Ministry of Justice instead of with the Foreign Ministry. In the end, Meyer believes that the Government will not shut down the institute.
OSCE Increasingly Viewed as EU Institution
10. (C) With the EU decision not to end the visa ban, the OSCE Project Coordinator's Office (PCO) is pessimistic about gaining the GOU's approval for its six remaining projects for 2007. In a meeting with the Charge on May 16, the PCO coordinator told the Charge the Uzbeks increasingly view the OSCE as an EU institution and its relationship with the EU will impact greatly its relations with the OSCE (ref D).
11. (C) The EU sanctions have had little, if any, practical effect on Uzbekistan. However, their significance is important politically and symbolically. The somewhat harsh official Uzbek verbal reaction to the prolonging of the visa ban suggests that the decision came as an unwelcome surprise. The EU decision should have sent the very strong message that mere discussions of human rights cannot justify lifting sanctions. It appears that the message has still not gotten through. On the eve of the sanctions decision, an Uzbek appeals court abruptly reversed the conviction of Human Rights Watch local staffer Umida Niyazova in an apparent political gesture toward the EU, but many other human rights activists and journalists remain imprisoned or under investigation, and the overall situation is unchanged. By repeatedly shooting itself in the foot, particularly on human rights issues, Uzbekistan missed an important opportunity to improve relations with the EU during Germany's Presidency. The German Ambassador commented to the Charge that it would be more difficult for the Uzbeks to make their case with Portugal as EU chair come July 1, implying that Germany had worked hard during its EU Presidency to get the GOU to take some concrete steps on human rights in order to lift EU sanctions. Nevertheless, the GOU still appears interested in cooperating with the EU in certain areas, although exclusively on its own terms.