EU To Temporarily Lift Uzbek Visa Ban
LUXEMBOURG, October 15, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- European Union's foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg today, are set to lift a visa ban imposed on a number of top officials in the wake of the mass killings of protesters in Andijon in 2005.
Speaking ahead of the meeting, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said the ban would be lifted for six months and that the move was conditional on the absence of new human rights violations in the country.
"Whether this will take us somewhere, we will have to see," Ferrero-Waldner said. "But I think we have to at least try, very, very clearly. And as I said it's the most populous country [in the region], it is a country in our Central Asian Strategy; I don't think we should just leave it out. I think we should engage with them and clearly try to work step by step in order to improve the situation of human rights."
Ferrero-Waldner said the EU must acknowledge a number of "first steps" taken by Tashkent -- among them two rounds of talks with the EU on the events of Andijon, one round of talks on human rights, the conditional release of some political prisoners, and the abolition of the death penalty.
Ferrero-Waldner said Uzbekistan must in the long run accept "quite a number" of substantive changes to its human-rights policy.
An arms embargo remains in place but is said by EU officials to be largely symbolic.