Germany is due to take over the rotating EU Presidency on January 1. It has announced plans to craft a single EU policy toward Central Asia during its six-month tenure.
Germany is believed to favor easing EU sanctions imposed on Uzbekistan following the bloodshed in Andijon in May 2005 in return for Tashkent's acquiescence to discuss rights issues.
Human Rights Watch on October 26 sent Steinmeier a letter in which it says it does not oppose a "critical dialogue" with Uzbekistan, according to the HRW website. However, it warns that "improved relations cannot be based on the [Uzbek] government's empty promises and distortions of its human rights record."
The EU is to decide by November 13 whether to maintain its current sanctions on Uzbekistan, which include an arms embargo and travel bans for some senior current and former officials.
Uzbekistan is Steinmeier's second stop, after Kazakhstan, on a tour that is expected to take him through all five of Central Asia's post-Soviet republics.