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Uzbekistan: Germany Likely To Leave Uzbek Base

Uzbek soldiers pictured during the suppression of demonstrations in Andijon in May 2005 (file photo) (epa) In the nine months since Uzbek authorities suppressed a popular demonstration in the city of Andijon, Germany has emerged as an important point of contact between the West and Uzbekistan's increasingly isolated leaders. Farruh Yusupov of RFE/RL's Uzbek Service asked Alexander Rahr of the German Council on Foreign Relations about a current visit by German parliamentarians to Tashkent and what it says about the future of the Germany's and the West's relationship with Uzbekistan. He started by asking about Tashkent's reported demand, made in late January, that Germany either leave its military base at Termez or plow new investment into the country. This move follows a decision last July to ask to ask the U.S. military to leave its base in Karshi-Khanabad. The future of a U.S. military presence in Kyrgyzstan has also been placed in doubt in recent weeks.

RFE/RL: Official reports about the German delegation's visit to Uzbekistan say that it is focusing on interparliamentary relations. But given Uzbekistan's demands about the German military base in Termez in southern Uzbekistan, it might seem that they are in Tashkent to discuss military issues. What can you say about that?

Alexander Rahr: Germany is preparing to take over the presidency in the EU in 2007 and there are grounds to believe that one of the main points on the political agenda for Germany could be a kind of partnership scheme with the Central Asian states. That means that Germany would try to convince the other European countries to do more for Central Asia in terms of democracy transfer, in terms of economic cooperation, and in terms of maybe some kind of security cooperation or security dialogue. And there will be many visits by German parliamentarians, but also by German government officials, to Central Asia in the coming months to investigate the situation in Uzbekistan to find out what Germany, as the EU president, could do in order to facilitate the partnership between Central Asian states and the European Union in the future.

RFE/RL: What will happen, in your view, to the German base in Termez?

Rahr: Germany does not want to be used by the Uzbek authorities to split NATO so Germany would stick to the joint NATO position. And if the Americans were told to leave Central Asia, as [the United States is] the leading country in NATO that would probably also mean that Germany would also leave the region, because it does not want to be left alone and to be seen as a country that emancipates itself from the United States. That happened during the Iraq war. So I think that the question of the bases is more or less solved in the way that there will be no Western bases in Central Asia and Germany will quit.

RFE/RL: So you think the issue of this visit is not military?

Rahr: I think that military and security questions are also to be discussed, but those people who are now in Tashkent do not have the authority to make some kind of deals with the Uzbek government in this respect.

RFE/RL: The EU and the Western countries have criticized Uzbekistan for the events in Andijon and they have a very critical position with regards to Uzbekistan. President Islam Karimov is very unhappy with the West. Germany seems to be an avenue of sorts left open for relations with Uzbekistan. Do you think this avenue is welcomed by the Uzbek authorities?

Rahr: It is difficult to say, but the Germans, who, as I say, are interested in doing more with Central Asia, would like to build a bridge. And the group of German parliamentarians that is in Uzbekistan right now is also trying to find ways to force the Uzbek authorities into some kind of cooperation on solving this very difficult, complicated issue, which has really distanced Uzbekistan from the West.

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.