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Central Asia: New EU Envoy A Familiar Face In The Region

By Khiromon Bakoeva New EU envoy to Central Asia Jan Kubis Yesterday, the European Union appointed veteran Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis to be the EU's special envoy to Central Asia. Kubis is familiar with the region, having served as the UN special envoy to Tajikistan during the transitional period following the civil war there until the country held its first postwar elections. As the secretary-general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Kubis continued to show his interest in the region, traveling often to Central Asia and Afghanistan. His appointment comes at a sensitive time following a popular revolt last March in Kyrgyzstan and violence in Uzbekistan in May when police and soldiers reportedly killed hundreds of demonstrators.

Prague, 19 July 2005 (RFE/RL) -- The same day the EU confirmed Kubis in his new post, officials also tasked him with traveling to the region soon, especially to Uzbekistan.

EU foreign ministers yesterday reiterated concerns about Uzbekistan, where in May troops and police opened fire on demonstrators in the eastern city of Andijon. Uzbek authorities put the number of those killed at 187 but others, the UN among them, say the number is likely much higher. The EU has twice passed resolutions calling on the Uzbek government to allow an independent investigation of the Andijon events. The Uzbek government rejected the call both times.

Although he does not officially take up his new duties until September, Kubis tells RFE/RL that he would soon travel to Central Asia, including Uzbekistan.

"First of all, I am armed with the positions and declarations made by EU foreign ministers yesterday and at two other [EU foreign ministers'] meetings in May and June. And that is the position I will convey to the [Uzbek] leadership," Kubis says.
Kubis says his goal now is to improve ties between the EU and the Central Asian states.

Kubis is more qualified than most to address such thorny issues with Central Asian leaders. As the UN special envoy to Tajikistan, it was Kubis' job to keep the peace and reconciliation process alive after a peace accord was signed in June 1997.

The two warring factions agreed to share power in the government, amend the constitution and hold elections. Accusations of failing to comply with the terms of the peace agreement were frequent and it was only due to 11th hour negotiating overseen by Kubis that Tajik presidential election +were held in November 1999.

Kubis says his goal now is to improve ties between the EU and the Central Asian states. These countries are increasingly wary of ties with Western governments and organizations following revolutions in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan. Many feel that Western governments and organizations played a role in toppling the entrenched regimes in those countries.

Kubis indicates he would be looking at ways the EU could be more effective in helping Central Asia.

"When I speak of my broad and complex mandate, which I think is aimed positively at developing interaction and discussion about how the European Union could work better and more effectively with countries of the [Central Asian] region, it applies to all the [Central Asian] countries," Kubis says.

Between serving as UN special envoy to Tajikistan and his appointment as the EU special envoy to Central Asia, Kubis served as OSCE secretary-general. In that position he was a frequent visitor to Central Asia and was extremely involved in Afghanistan ahead of last year's presidential election.

(Massoumeh Torfeh of the RFE/RL's Tajik Service and RFE/RL correspondent Bruce Pannier contributed to this report.)