The EU’s tardy response to the Andijan massacre is criticised

From The Telegraph

It has taken the European Union four and a half months to decide on sanctions against Uzbekistan for the Andijan massacre. These are due to be approved by foreign ministers of the 25 member states in Brussels on Monday. They are expected to ban exports of arms, military equipment and material that could be used for internal repression. Other measures include refusing visas to those thought to have been involved in the massacre, and cuts in aid disbursed under a 1996 partnership and co-operation agreement.

The EU argues that it had to wait for the report of its special representative, the Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis, before taking action. In so doing, it ignored its own deadline, of June 30, for Uzbek compliance with a demand that the May 13 massacre, in which hundreds of people were killed, be subject to an international inquiry. To add insult to injury, it did not even bother to place Andijan on the agenda of this month’s foreign ministers’ meeting in Newport.

Mr Kubis, who visited Tashkent and Andijan three weeks ago, has duly relayed President Islam Karimov’s refusal to accede to EU demands. Instead, the government has put on trial 15 defendants charged with what it terms an uprising by Islamic extremists. Investigations by human rights organisations have, by contrast, found that the authorities applied excessive lethal force to a largely peaceful protest against poverty and repression.

The EU has the chance to compensate for procrastination at its summit with Vladimir Putin in London next Tuesday. The Russian president has moved swiftly to strengthen relations with Mr Karimov following the latter’s decision to withdraw basing rights from the Americans at Karshi-Khanabad; enhancing Russian influence in the “near abroad” tops the Kremlin’s foreign policy agenda. EU leaders should tell Mr Putin that support for the Uzbek tyrant threatens stability in a region of mutual strategic concern, and can only damage Moscow’s relations with the West. The question is: will they have the guts to do so? Dilatoriness over the Andijan massacre does not encourage optimism.