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OSCE Asks Kyrgyzstan To Not Repatriate Uzbek Refugees

Uzbek refugees Vienna, 30 May 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) today appealed to Kyrgyzstan to not repatriate refugees from neighboring Uzbekistan who have sought refuge on its territory.

The OSCE chairman in office, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel, said the forced return of refugees would do nothing to ease an already tense situation in the region.

Hundreds of Uzbek refugees have entered Kyrgyzstan following this month's military crackdown in Andijon.

Rupel said the asylum seekers should be treated according to the international commitments Kyrgyzstan has signed, specifically the 1951 Convention related to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

Rupel was speaking at a meeting of the OSCE permanent council attended by Kyrgyzstan's interim president Kurmanbek Bakiev.

Rupel stressed the importance of the upcoming presidential elections in Kyrgyzstan, on July 10. He said he would ask the OSCE's 55 member-states to provide funding for police assistance to help ensure stability in the run-up to the elections.