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Uzbekistan: Foreign Minister Calls For Greater International Effort In Afghanistan

Uzbek Foreign Minister Elyor Ganiev said in his speech to the UN General Assembly on 16 September that Central Asia is plagued by a convergence of terrorism, extremism, and drug trafficking. Ganiev's speech was dominated by concerns about terrorism and regional instability four months after the government's crackdown on demonstrators in Andijon. He urged greater international action to stabilize Afghanistan but also repeated Tashkent's call for the demilitarization of Central Asia.

United Nations, 16 September 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Foreign Minister Ganiev linked instability in Central Asia to developments in Afghanistan.

He expressed frustration that nearly four years after the ouster of the Taliban, Afghanistan still remains a center for drug trafficking. He also said promises of international donors have not been fulfilled.

"(An) effective response to the growing threats to stability in the Central Asian region cannot be viewed separately from the issue of stabilizing the situation in Afghanistan," Ganiev said. "Unfortunately, we have to stress that the process of Afghanistan's departure from post-conflict status is being unjustifiably delayed."

His comments came four months after the events in Andijon, in which Uzbek officials say extremists provoked disturbances and incited bloodshed. But a number of eyewitness accounts say the government fired on unarmed civilians, killing hundreds.

There is a widening government crackdown on Western-supported civil society and media groups. Uzbek officials have accused international pro-democracy groups of interfering in the country's affairs, especially after the outcry by human-rights groups after the government crackdown in Andijon.

In his UN speech, Ganiev declined to mention domestic disturbances in Uzbekistan, focusing on regional and international issues. He cited what he said was the failure by the international community to coordinate an effective counternarcotics strategy for Afghanistan and Central Asia.

At the same time, he repeated Tashkent's call for demilitarizing Central Asia.

"In the light of the present situation in Central Asia the issue of demilitarizing the region acquires urgent significance," Ganiev said. "Another important issue in ensuring regional peace and addressing the outstanding social and economic problems is to accelerate the processes of establishing a Central Asian Common Market that would guarantee regional cooperation and effective use of huge potential and resources of Central Asia."

He didn't name countries, but Uzbekistan recently notified Washington it wants the U.S. military to vacate a base in the country used as a staging area for forces working to stabilize Afghanistan.

Uzbek-U.S. relations have chilled after Washington's calls for an international investigation into the Andijon events.

Ganiev did not mention the growing frictions with Kyrgyzstan over its decision to refuse to return hundreds of refugees from Andijon.
Ganiev declined to mention domestic disturbances in Uzbekistan, focusing on regional and international issues.

Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev was discussing the issue today with UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan.

Earlier today, Romanian Foreign Minister Mihai Razvan Ungureanu reaffirmed his government's support for hosting refugees from Uzbekistan.

Ungureanu told RFE/RL that despite protests from Uzbekistan, which charges that some of the refugees are responsible for unrest, Romania sees a duty to protect them.

"The Uzbeks have apparently taken quite a tough stand against the Romanian decision," Ungureanu said. "We always say that what we have done there should be done by any civilized state because we are all bound by different conventions but also by very moral respect of human rights to defend refugees and to house them and to give them shelter whenever needed."

Ungureanu met in New York on 15 September with UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres. Ungureanu said he offered to set up a regional office for the refugee agency in Bucharest to handle any future flows of people from Central Asia who "have dared to stand against authoritarian regimes."

For other stories on the UN Summit, see:

Azerbaijani Minister Touts Country's Role In Regional Security

Armenian Premier Praises UN Efforts Against Terror

World Leader Wrap Up UN Summit

Uzbek Minister Urges Greater Efforts To Stabilize Afghanistan

Lukashenka Criticizes U.S. 'Unipolar' World Dominance

UN: Organization Opens 60th Anniversary Summit Looking At Reforms

Iran: In First UN Speech, President Ahmadinejad Aims Criticism At U.S.