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UZBEKISTAN


 

 

Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 9,949 9,713 11,300 91
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 420 450 550 173
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (date from the World Bank)

Books on Uzbekistan


Update No: 317 - (30/05/07)

The EU beckons, hopes Karimov
Uzbekistan, isolated from the West since the Andijan massacre in May 2005, clearly regards the European Union (EU) as its best hope for rapprochement as a means to promote its interests within Europe. The Europeans, at least, France, Italy and Germany, are not so keen on a moral foreign policy as the Anglo-Saxon powers, particularly when in neo-con mode.

As a result of the German presidency of the Council of the EU, a delegation of EU experts led by Rolf Schulze, head of the Central Asia and Southern Caucasus Division of the German Foreign Ministry, led a working visit to Uzbekistan on March 31-April 4. They discussed questions arising from their last visit in December 2006, focusing on judicial proceedings involving individuals linked to the events in Andijan. Reportedly, both sides expressed their "mutual satisfaction" with the constructive dialogue in an atmosphere described as showing "mutual understanding" (Uzbek National News Agency, April 4).

In late March, the EU opened an information and documentation centre in Tashkent, confirming the positive impression given to the EU by official statements. This centre has been created in the spirit of the bilateral partnership and cooperation agreement between the EU and Uzbekistan. Located within the University of World Economy and Diplomacy in Tashkent, it is intended to facilitate the spread of information about the EU to lecturers, teachers, students, and government ministries. Although Uzbekistan is still subject to EU-imposed sanctions linked to Andijan, it wants to maximize the potential for improving its relations with the West through the EU.

Berlin remains the keystone for Tashkent's efforts to eliminate EU opposition to the regime. On March 28 Rashid Qodirov, Uzbekistan's prosecutor-general, received German Ambassador to Uzbekistan Matthias Meyer, offering briefings on the activities of the prosecutor's office, its priorities, objectives, and bolstering a positive view of its role in protecting human rights.

They also considered practical aspects of deepening existing cooperation, based on an agreement between the two countries' law-enforcement agencies signed in 1995, "On Cooperation in Fighting Organized Crimes, Terrorism, and Challenges Posing a Serious Threat to Society" (Huquq, Tashkent, April 5). 

Indeed, there are signs of increased Uzbek diplomacy aimed at opening up greater contacts with Western multilateral bodies. Eson Mustafoyev, the head of Uzbekistan's mission in NATO, presented his credentials to NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer on March 30. During the talks that followed, both sides explored the current state of Uzbek-NATO bilateral relations and prospects for the future (Xalq Sozi, Tashkent, April 3).

Since 2005 President Islam Karimov has looked beyond Russia for assistance, rejoined the Collective Security Treaty Organization, and entered a strategic partnership with Russia. He has also opened the largest and most attractive industrial facilities in Uzbekistan to Russian entrepreneurs.

The real winner from the Andijan legacy has been Rustam Inoyatov, head of the National Security Service (NSS). Inoyatov has witnessed a considerable strengthening of the NSS power base within Uzbekistan. The Interior Ministry was stripped of control over its interior troops, which were placed under the command of the NSS and the Ministry of Defence. Consequently, Interior Minister Zohirjon Almatov lost so much political weight that he soon fell ill and is now regarded as an "honourable pensioner." The new interior minister, Bahodir Matlubov, cannot counterbalance Inoyatov, since the ministry no longer has the power it once had. Ruslan Mirzayev succeeded Qodir Gulomov as minister of defence; significantly, he is a former NSS officer who once worked in the intelligence department of the Ministry of Defence and was later promoted to the post of secretary of the National Security Council. In short, the NSS is now placed in an unprecedented position to supervise and influence the country (Centrasia.ru, March 31).

Although Inoyatov may be a potential successor to Karimov, the main impediment that stands in his way is Moscow's unfailing support for Karimov. Since the Uzbek-Russia rapprochement, Moscow has based its diplomacy with Tashkent on the premise that as things worsen for Karimov in his relations with the West, he will be compelled to rely even more heavily upon Russia. Recently the Russian media has begun to promote the image of Karimov and his daughter. Karimov ostensibly started his re-election campaign by speaking at the Cabinet of Ministers' meeting on February 13, but his message about the success of his regime failed to impress anyone, although he made clear his intention to stay in office for the time being.

Inoyatov, in many ways, appears to be a candidate-in-waiting. He represents a viable alternative to Karimov, but Russia is intent on maintaining its grip on Uzbekistan through Karimov. Karimov, recognizing that Kazakhstan has effectively emerged as the dominant power in the region, would like to find some way of restoring Uzbekistan's relations with the West. This may take some time to achieve, while the Uzbek economy struggles. Inoyatov may have the political will to pursue closer relations with the West and move away from some of the more corrupt practices of the Karimov regime; however, he does not seem ready to throw his hat into the ring despite possessing the capability to undermine the president. In order to succeed Karimov, Inoyatov will have to promote his credentials within Russia. In the meantime, Uzbekistan's chances for improved relations with the West rest on Karimov. Ironically, the man who has effectively kept Karimov in power may be more interested in promoting Uzbekistan's long-term cooperation with the West, as well as with Russia. 

Media control ahead of election
As the presidential election campaign approaches in Uzbekistan, the country's authorities are trying to limit the public's access to independent sources of information.

Since truly independent newspapers, radio, and television stations are almost nonexistent in Uzbekistan, the government has turned its attention to the Internet, blocking news websites and creating pro-government sites that cover events from the government's viewpoint.

Banned List Grows 
The Russian-language website portal-credo.ru is the most recent addition to the list of the many political, opposition, and news websites that the Uzbek government is keeping users in Uzbekistan from seeing.

"Closing down the Internet is a foolish idea. You cannot close it. The person who tries to shut down the Internet is a complete fool," says Uzbek President Islam Karimov himself.
While control of the independent media and free speech by Uzbek President Islam Karimov's government has long been criticized by local and international observers, the censorship of independent sources of information intensified after the bloody crackdown on protests in the eastern city of Andijan in May 2005.

An Internet user in the city of Namangan, who did not want to give his name for security reasons, told RFE/RL that he tried but could not access many international websites.

"For instance, it is impossible to enter Ozodlik Radio [RFE/RL's Uzbek Service] website," he said. "Firstly, as soon as you type the word 'Ozodlik' the Internet shuts down. Secondly, access to the Birlik site or other websites that cover human rights issues, is barred. For example, sites such as fergana.ru or centrasia.ru have been blocked."

Observers say the government is particularly wary of regional news -- such as information about the recent antigovernment protests in neighbouring Kyrgyzstan -- reaching an Uzbek audience.

Access Denied 
Alisher Soipov is an editor at the regional news website fergana.ru, which is being blocked in Uzbekistan along with uzmetronom.com, centrasia.ru, bbc.co.uk/uzbek, and many other local, regional, and international websites.

"The [Internet] censorship in Uzbekistan is being strengthened," he said. "The Internet is full of calls for revolution and is full of information that casts doubt on the country's 'great future' as well as over the leader of the country's wisdom, power, and abilities. The Uzbek government would not want to lose its credibility in front of its people [by them getting such information on the Internet]. It could be the reason why they block [the Internet]."

Oleg, an Internet cafe owner in Tashkent, tells RFE/RL that access to many websites has been blocked for many years.

ISPs Pressured 
Paris-based Julien Pain is the head of the Internet Freedom Desk at Reporters Without Borders. He blames the Uzbek security services for barring the news sites.

"The security services in Uzbekistan are very involved in controlling the Internet and putting pressure upon the Internet Service Providers [ISPs], so they blocked the opposition websites," Pain said.

The Internet is not yet hugely popular in Uzbekistan, but like the other Central Asian countries, the number of Internet users -- private computer owners as well as Internet cafes -- has been growing rapidly in recent years. According to official figures, some 1.5 million of Uzbekistan's 27 million people have access to the Internet.

The Uzbek government says it wants to develop Internet access in the country. Karimov has on several occasions even criticized the idea of trying to block the Internet.
"The Internet is like a big shop," the president said. "When you enter the shop, you buy the goods you desire. Closing down the Internet is a foolish idea. You cannot close it. The person who tries to shut down the Internet is a complete fool."

Information War? 
Daniel Kislov, the Moscow-based chief of ferghana.ru, says the Uzbek authorities who apparently see some websites as their political enemies have not only barred those sites in Uzbekistan, they have also tried to establish their own websites to counter the independent flow of information.

Easily accessible, multilingual sites such as pressuz.info or gorizont.uz cover domestic and international news from the government's standpoint.

"[The Uzbek authorities] think they are taking part in some kind of information war," Kislov said. "If it is so, this war has been announced against us or against the whole enlightened world by the authorities themselves."

It appears as though Internet users in Uzbekistan are caught in the middle of this conflict.
However, some Internet cafe owners say that many of their visitors -- especially the young ones -- do not show much of an interest in the political websites, and they are mostly visiting entertainment sites to play games or to just chat with their friends.

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The following report has plenty of relevance, as the above amply shows, to Uzbekistan:-

Human Rights Watch
With repressive governments ruling over Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and their neighbours, the European Union should make respect for human rights an integral part of its new Central Asia strategy.

With repressive governments ruling over Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and their neighbours, the European Union should make respect for human rights an integral part of its new Central Asia strategy, Human Rights Watch said in a briefing paper released today. EU foreign ministers are scheduled to review a first-ever Central Asia strategy at the General Affairs External Relations Counsel meeting in Brussels on April 23-24. The strategy, an initiative of the German EU Presidency, replaces years of an uncoordinated approach by the European Union to the five Central Asian countries, which were once part of the Soviet Union. Human Rights Watch urged the EU to incorporate benchmarks for progress in priority human rights areas into the strategy.

"The EU should link closer engagement with Central Asian countries with real progress in improving human rights," said Holly Cartner, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The EU has a chance to push for real rights in Central Asia, and it should be applying pressure in that area instead of just paying lip service to its principles."

The European Union's approach to human rights in the region, as articulated in draft strategy papers, has focused on structured dialogues, education and training, which are important tools but alone are not enough to encourage meaningful change, Human Rights Watch said. The EU has too often welcomed "positive signals" by the Central Asian governments, without insisting on concrete improvements and results, even while the situation in many of the countries deteriorated. The human rights communities in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan have been particularly hard-hit by government repression, yet some EU officials are now calling for the easing of its limited sanctions on Uzbekistan, and last year the EU sought to introduce a trade agreement with Turkmenistan.

Today, Human Rights Watch also published a face-book of human rights defenders in Uzbekistan, one of the most repressive countries in the entire Eurasia region, cataloguing their courageous work and the multiple methods the Uzbek government employs to silence and punish them.

"The plight of Uzbekistan's human rights defenders, especially those behind bars, illustrates why the EU needs to move beyond dialogue and training," said Cartner. "These prisoners of conscience are paying the price of the EU's feeble human rights policy."

One of these jailed defenders, Umida Niazova, is to go on trial on April 19 in Tashkent on politically motivated charges of smuggling, distributing seditious materials, and illegal border crossing. Niazova is also the translator for Human Rights Watch's Tashkent office. 

The governments of Central Asian countries Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan overall have poor human rights records. In some countries, such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, the situation has actually worsened since the Soviet era, with Turkmenistan standing as one of the most repressive countries in the world. Kazakhstan, still ruled by Soviet-era leader Nursultan Nazarbaev, aspires to hold the chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), but has not held a single national election in full compliance with OSCE election norms. Kyrgyzstan's current government came to power two years ago on the promise of reform, but has failed to prioritise human rights.

EU discussion papers say that the European Union's goal is to see "the establishment of stable, independent and prosperous countries adhering to democratic values" in Central Asia. But the weakness of the EU's approach to human rights in these documents contrasts with its more robust approach to energy, security and trade.

"The EU doesn't have to trade human rights for energy resources," Cartner said. "In fact, insisting that the Central Asians act to uphold human rights will actually improve long-term stability." 

The Human Rights Watch briefing paper acknowledges the differences in the human rights records of the five Central Asian countries and suggests a set of actions that an EU strategy should require of each, and benchmarks the EU could use to measure progress. For example, on Uzbekistan, Human Rights Watch says the EU should require that the Uzbek government creates space for civil society by releasing imprisoned human rights defenders.

The European Union is scheduled next month to decide whether to extend or remove sanctions it imposed on Uzbekistan for the government's failure to allow an independent, international inquiry into the May 2005 massacre in Andijan. Human Rights Watch has repeatedly urged the EU not to remove the sanctions until Uzbekistan has met all the EU's assessment criteria, which include easing the current crackdown on civil society.

The Human Rights Watch face-book released today shows that Uzbekistan has stepped up, rather than eased, this crackdown in the past two years. The Uzbek government uses methods against critics that range from intimidation, threats and harassment to physical attacks, imprisonment and torture. Numerous civil society activists including human rights defenders, independent journalists, and members of the political opposition have been beaten by unknown assailants, threatened by local authorities, set upon by mobs, and placed under house arrest.

In the past year alone, at least a dozen human rights defenders have been sentenced to lengthy prison terms on politically motivated charges. Some have seen their relatives detained, in apparent retaliation of their human rights work. Others have had to stop their human rights work or flee the country altogether following threats to their lives and those of their loved ones. Yet many human rights defenders in Uzbekistan continue important research and advocacy work to press for improved human rights conditions in their country.

On Turkmenistan, Human Rights Watch said that EU should use benchmarks set out last October by the European Parliament as conditions for establishing an interim trade agreement with that country. These benchmarks include releasing political prisoners and allowing independent human rights monitoring.

On Kazakstan, Human Rights Watch said the EU should use its influence to get Kazakstan to clearly commit to OSCE standards before it could assume the OSCE chairmanship in 2009. 

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AUTOMOBILES

Isuzu buys 8% stake in Samavto


Isuzu Motors Ltd. has acquired an eight per cent stake in Samarkand Car Plant (SamAvto) in Uzbekistan from Uzavtosanoat (Uzavtoprom), a source in the Uzavtoprom press service said, Interfax News Agency reported.
Isuzu is considering the possibility of further increasing its stake in the company, the source said. SamAvto began mass production of vehicles using the Isuzu Motors chasses on January 22, 2007. Isuzu Motors and SamAvto signed a technical assistance agreement during the ceremony in which the Uzbek plant will receive the technology to produce buses and small Isuzu trucks. According to a program aimed at developing production, the plant will produce 1,500 different models this year. It will gradually reach projected production capacity of 4,000 cars per year.

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BANKING

Eximbank China provides US$17.3m to Ipoteka Bank

The Export and Import Bank of China has provided Uzbekistan's Ipoteka Bank with a US$17.293 million loan to implement a project to equip the country's housing fund with hot and cold water meters, the Uzbek bank said in a press release, New Europe reported.
The loan was provided under a Uzbek government guarantee for 20 years with a five-year grace period at a rate of an annual two percent. Uzbek President Islam Karimov approved a project early in the year to equip Uzbekistan's housing fund with hot and cold water meters.

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MINERALS & METALS

Uranium fields study to handed to Korea Resources

Uzbekistan has made a pre-feasibility study to develop the Dzhantuar uranium deposit in the Central Kyzyl Kum available to Korea Resources Corp., an Uzbek State Geology Committee official said, Interfax News Agency reported.
The committee said talks on the joint development of the field were ongoing. It is expected that the sides would start discussing the terms of a founding agreement for a joint venture once the South Korean company had approved the pre-feasibility study. "The most optimistic forecasts indicate that the field will not go on stream before 2009," the official said. The committee believes a mine will have to be built and that technology new to Uzbekistan's uranium industry will have to be used. The source did not say how much the project might cost on commercial secrecy grounds, saying only that it would be "expensive and run to tens of millions of dollars. "Korea Resources Corp. and Uzbekistan's State Geology and Mineral Resources Committee plan to form a joint venture to mine the Dzhantuar uranium field. In addition, Russia's Techsnabexport and Rusburmash plan to form a joint uranium mining venture with Uzbekistan's Navoi Mining and Metals Plant to develop the Aktau field. Japanese companies have said they want to be involved in uranium mining and exploration in Uzbekistan and to buy the country's uranium. Navoi is the monopoly operator that mines, enriches and exports Uzbek uranium. It has three enterprises that mine uranium by the in situ leach (ISL) method.

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