Daily archives: July 30, 2005

US airbase kicked out of Uzbekistan

Craig Murray comments on the latest developments:

“Let us hope that finally the Bush administration will now recognise the true nature of the Karimov regime. It is symptomatic of the complete failure of Western policy in Central Asia that rather than withdraw with some dignity, the US has managed to hand the dictator Karimov the propaganda coup of kicking out the World’s greatest power.”

“This is not about the response to the Andizhan massacre. To the end the US was muted on human rights in Uzbekistan and still has not called for full elections including the opposition. This is about the Karimov regime’s decision to turn to Gazprom and the Russians, not the US, to develop Uzbekistan’s oil and gas fields. This deal involves Uzbekneftegas and was brokered between the President’s daughter, Gulnara Karimova, and Alisher Usmanov, the Uzbek born Russian oligarch who bought 27% of Corus (British Steel).”

“The Karimov regime are determined to keep complete control of the economy so they can continue their massive looting for personal enrichment. They were concerned that Western companies could build centres of wealth not under their direct control. They have therefore decided to turn to Russian and Chinese state companies for investment. These companies operate the system of oligarch corruption that the Karimov regime understands.”

“This is the explanation for Central Asia’s “Diplomatic Revolution” as Uzbekistan turns decisively away from the USA towards Russia and China. There will now be massive pressure by Karimov on Tajikistan and Kirghizstan – both tiny countries dependent on Uzbekistan for energy supplies – to follow suit.”

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U.S. Evicted From Air Base In Uzbekistan

By Robin Wright and Ann Scott Tyson writing in the

Washington Post

Uzbekistan formally evicted the United States yesterday from a military base that has served as a hub for combat and humanitarian missions to Afghanistan since shortly after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Pentagon and State Department officials said yesterday.

In a highly unusual move, the notice of eviction from Karshi-Khanabad air base, known as K2, was delivered by a courier from the Uzbek Foreign Ministry to the U.S. Embassy in Tashkent, said a senior U.S. administration official involved in Central Asia policy. The message did not give a reason. Uzbekistan will give the United States 180 days to move aircraft, personnel and equipment, U.S. officials said.

If Uzbekistan follows through, as Washington expects, the United States will face several logistical problems for its operations in Afghanistan. Scores of flights have used K2 monthly. It has been a landing base to transfer humanitarian goods that then are taken by road into northern Afghanistan, particularly to Mazar-e Sharif — with no alternative for a region difficult to reach in the winter. K2 is also a refueling base with a runway long enough for large military aircraft. The alternative is much costlier midair refueling.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld returned this week from Central Asia, where he won assurances from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan that the United States can use their bases for operations in Afghanistan. U.S. forces use Tajikistan for emergency landings and occasional refueling, but it lacks good roads into Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan does not border Afghanistan.

“We always think ahead. We’ll be fine,” Rumsfeld said Sunday when asked how the United States would cope with losing the base in Uzbekistan.

In May, however, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman called access to the airfield “undeniably critical in supporting our combat operations” and humanitarian deliveries. The United States has paid $15 million to Uzbek authorities for use of the airfield since 2001, he said.

Yesterday, Pentagon spokesman Lawrence T. Di Rita said that the U.S. military does not depend on one base in any part of the world. “We’ll be able to conduct our operations as we need to, regardless of how this turns out. It’s a diplomatic issue at the moment,” Di Rita said.

The eviction notice came four days before a senior State Department official was to arrive in Tashkent for talks with the government of President Islam Karimov. The relationship has been increasingly tense since bloody protests in the province of Andijan in May, the worst unrest since Uzbekistan gained independence from the Soviet Union.

Undersecretary of State R. Nicholas Burns was going to pressure Tashkent to allow an international investigation into the Andijan protests, which human rights groups and three U.S. senators who met with eyewitnesses said killed about 500 people. Burns was also going to warn the government, one of the most authoritarian in the Islamic world, to open up politically — or risk the kind of upheavals witnessed recently in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, U.S. officials said.

Karimov has balked at an international probe. As U.S. pressure mounted, he cut off U.S. night flights and some cargo flights, forcing Washington to move search-and-rescue operations and some cargo flights to Bagram air base in Afghanistan and Manas air base in Kyrgyzstan. As relations soured, the Bush administration was preparing for a further cutoff, U.S. officials said.

The United States was given the notice just hours after 439 Uzbek political refugees were flown out of neighboring Kyrgyzstan — over Uzbek objections — by the United Nations. The refugees fled after the May unrest, which Uzbek officials charged was the work of terrorists. The Bush administration had been pressuring Kyrgyzstan not to force the refugees to return to Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan has been widely viewed as an important test for the Bush administration — and whether the anti-terrorism efforts or promotion of democracy takes priority. “We all knew basically that if we really wanted to keep access to the base, the way to do it was to shut up about democracy and turn a blind eye to the refugees,” said the senior official, on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomacy. “We could have saved the base if we had wanted.”

After the latest setback in relations, the Bush administration is going to “wait for a cooling-off period,” the administration official said. “We are assuming they mean it and want us out. We are now not sending someone to Uzbekistan.”

The next test will be whether to withhold as much as $22 million in aid to Uzbekistan if it does not comply with provisions on political and economic reforms it committed to undertake in a 2002 strategic partnership agreement with Washington. Last year, the administration withheld almost $11 million. U.S. officials expect the Uzbek government will again be ineligible for funds.

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EBRD issues new strategy for Uzbekistan

“I welcome this decision by the EBRD, which is taking a strong lead among international institutions in taking seriously questions of democracy and human rights.

This decision represents a considerable tightening of the EBRD postition; previously soem government projects were still being considered. Now not only are Uzbek government projects ruled out, so are private projects with any participation by government officials and their families. This is a strong recognition of regime corruption, and a major slap in the face for Karimov.

The EBRD are to be applauded for their stance on Uzbekistan. We are always ready to criticise IFIs. We should be equally ready to praise when they get it so right.”

Craig Murray 30/07/05

EBRD Press Release (29/07/05)

The EBRD’s new two-year strategy for Uzbekistan concludes that while some economic progress has been made since its last strategy for the Central Asian country was published in 2003, there has been no comparable political liberalisation.

The previous strategy described Uzbekistan’s political and economic progress as slow and characterised by setbacks, and emphasised the importance of the Uzbek authorities taking a number of critical steps to put the country on a path of sustained progress towards multi-party democracy and a market economy. In 2004, the Bank restricted its activity to private-sector projects as well as public-sector operations that either linked Uzbekistan economically to other countries in the region or clearly benefited ordinary citizens, such as by improving a town’s water supply.

The Bank’s new strategy notes that economic progress has been achieved in two areas since 2003 – current-account convertibility and adjustment of tariffs in public utilities – but says there has been no progress in Uzbekistan’s political environment.

As a result, the Bank has decided not to initiate any new projects in the public sector during the new country strategy period. It will focus on supporting private-sector development and entrepreneurship, particularly SMEs and micro-business, provided that there is no direct or indirect link to the government or government officials. For example, the Bank is considering the possibility of establishing a microfinance bank and expanding its leasing operation. The Bank will also continue to support trade through its Trade Facilitation Programme.

Equally, the EBRD will continue its efforts to engage in policy dialogue with the authorities, working for improvement in the investment climate and supporting reform efforts. Only reforms can unlock Uzbekistan’s significant economic potential and allow the Bank to operate on a full-fledged basis. The events in Andijan in May, resulting in the indiscriminate use of force against civilians, as documented in various reports, including this month’s report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, were a cause of serious concern for the Bank.

The EBRD, which has invested ?509.5 million in Uzbekistan, has had a lower level of commitments in recent years as a result of the country’s unfavourable investment climate. In 2004 the Bank signed three projects for a combined ?34 million.

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Protest against government exclusion zone

Craig Murray is supporting a protest this Monday (August 1st, 2pm) against the government’s new exclusion zone.

Due to come into effect from 1 August, this exclusion zone prohibits demonstrations, even one-person demonstrations, unless the police expressly permit them. Failure to comply can lead to arrest. The zone covers a very wide area around Parliament as far as the London Eye, Charing Cross embankment and up to (although not including) Trafalgar Square.

For futher details click here. For arguements on why you should support the protest go here.

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