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Uzbekistan: EU Urges Tashkent To Refrain From Further Use Of Force

The European Commission says it is "deeply concerned" by the violence in Uzbekistan. The commission today called on the Uzbek government not to use force against demonstrators and respect human rights and the rule of law. However, officials appeared to rule out any further EU action at this point. [For more on these events, see RFE/RL's dedicated webpage: Unrest in Uzbekistan --> /specials/uzbek_unrest/ ]

Brussels, 17 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The European Commission has joined the United States and other governments in expressing concern over continuing reports of violence in Uzbekistan.

The current holder of the EU Presidency, Luxembourg, issued a similar statement of concern on 14 May. Yesterday was an EU holiday.

Emma Udwin, a commission spokeswoman, said in Brussels today that External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero Waldner is following events closely and is them taking "very seriously."

"We are deeply concerned by what we see and what we hear," Udwin said. "We are following the developments and reiterating our calls -- which I guess you've heard us make before, at the end of last week -- for the authorities to return to dialogue and reconciliation and to desist from the use of force."

Udwin said the European Commission urges the Uzbek government to abide by the provisions of the EU-Uzbek Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which stipulates the need to respect human rights and the rule of law.

Udwin said the situation can only be calmed if all sides exercise restraint. She said dialogue -- not the use of force -- is the only way out of the crisis.

Udwin said neither the commission nor EU member states have yet discussed any possible future reaction to the recent events in Uzbekistan.

She urged Uzbek authorities to allow the "greatest possible" access to diplomats and the International Committee of the Red Crescent on the ground.

Udwin also rejected suggestions that the PCA with Uzbekistan should be suspended, describing such calls as "misplaced," adding, "The purpose of these agreements is to bring about a framework for a relationship, to bring about a framework in which dialogue can take place and in which points can be made."

Udwin said the agreement is "not worthless," as it sets out subjects in which dialogue can be held.

The EU's presence in Central Asia is negligible compared to either Russia or the United States. Uzbekistan receives 10 million euros ($12.6 million) in aid annually and attends a PCA Council meeting at the foreign-minister level roughly once a year.

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