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OSCE Chief Expresses Concern Over Situation In Southern Kyrgyzstan

OSCE Chairman-in-Office Audronius Azubalis
BISHKEK -- The chairman of the OSCE has expressed concern over the situation in southern Kyrgyzstan, including reports of human rights violations, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reports.

Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis, who is chairman in office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), made the comments to journalists in Bishkek on March 3 after visiting the southern regions of Osh and Jalal-Abad.

Azubalis praised Kyrgyzstan's efforts to restore stability after last year's "tragic events," a reference to the clashes last summer between ethnic Uzbeks and Kyrgyz that left more than 430 people dead.

But he said he also had some concerns. "My conversations with local political leaders, representatives of civil society, international organizations, and law-enforcement agencies gave me little hope that the social, economic, or political situation could be changed quickly," Azubalis said.

Azubalis said long-term security also requires "respect for the rights of all members of society. It is essential to strengthen dialogue between the ethnic communities."

He said he is very much concerned by reported cases of human rights violations. "As chairman [of the OSCE] I am also concerned at the information I received about cases of discrimination, persecution, and violations of human rights," Azubalis said.

Azubalis said the OSCE is committed to help the Kyrgyz government in its efforts to restore order and stability in the southern regions.

Read more in Kyrgyz here