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Interview: Swiss Spokeswoman Explains Arms Ban On Uzbekistan

Casualties of the Andijon uprising and subsequent crackdown in May (AFP) Switzerland has formally imposed an arms embargo on Uzbekistan in response to alleged human rights violations that occurred in May in the Uzbek city of Andijon, where hundreds of people were believed killed by security forces. The Swiss have also imposed travel restrictions on 12 senior officials thought to be implicated in the Andijon crackdown. Bern's move follows similar action by the 25-member European Union in November. Alisher Sidikov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service spoke on 1 February with Rita Baldegger, a spokeswoman for the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs, who explained details of the measures.

RFE/RL: I understand that Switzerland quickly imposed preliminary bans on Uzbekistan, and now it is formalizing these restrictions?

Rita Baldegger: Correct. Now they are official sanctions in line with the European Union. But we also have to say that although we are now imposing these sanctions, we will continue to monitor the developments in Uzbekistan, and adjust our measures accordingly. These sanctions do not mean that our relationship with Uzbekistan is indefinitely harmed, it just means that we want to uphold human rights, civil rights -- that's very important for us -- but also of course, as the situation in Uzbekistan improves, we will reconsider our actions.

RFE/RL: What will be the impact of the Swiss ban, in so far as Switzerland is a financial center of the world?

Baldegger: Sanctions can have an impact if they are widely applied. The EU has already imposed sanctions, and now we are joining them. So the countries involved in imposing sanctions on Uzbekistan are quite big in number; the more countries that are involved in imposing sanctions, the greater the impact will be. What our sanctions do is to impose a ban on the supply of military equipment to Uzbekistan, or goods for the purpose of internal repression; also a ban on financial services in connection with the supply of defense goods and with military activities; so this is actually a measure to protect the Uzbek people. We are very strongly against internal oppression, and this is a way of showing that, and of course hopefully a way of making the government think about its actions.

RFE/RL: What is the economic relationship between Switzerland and Uzbekistan that could be affected. Will Uzbek government accounts be affected?

Baldegger: We have several agreements with Uzbekistan. We exported goods worth 27 million Swiss francs to Uzbekistan ($13 million), and imported goods worth 1.6 million francs ($900,000). We have some Swiss companies operating in Uzbekistan, but the business interests of Swiss companies in Uzbekistan is not extremely big.

RFE/RL: Other Swiss-Uzbek cooperation will be sustained?

Baldegger: These measures should not have impact on normal business activities, since they are concentrated on defense goods, on financial services for defense goods and military weaponry, and also some travel restrictions for some individuals. So it is really centered on the events in Andijon last year.

RFE/RL: You are imposing a travel ban on 12 people. If these people have some private accounts in Swiss banks, will this travel ban prevent them from reaching their accounts in Switzerland?

Baldegger: Of course, they will be hindered from coming personally to Switzerland, this definitely yes. If they want to come personally, that would be prevented; it would not be possible. They cannot enter or transit Switzerland.

RFE/RL: Do you think these measures will be followed by other steps, financial steps, like reviewing the accounts of Uzbek officials. Is it possible?

Baldegger: Theoretically all kinds of sanctions are possible. I mean financial sanctions are also possible, but at the moment I am not aware of more sanctions being imposed, and I cannot say more, because this would be a decision of the Swiss Federal Council.

Aftermath Of Andijon

Aftermath Of Andijon

A dedicated webpage bringing together all of RFE/RL's coverage of the events in Andijon, Uzbekistan, in May 2005 and their continuing repercussions.


An annotated timeline of the Andijon events and their repercussions.