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07TASHKENT947 2007-05-14 11:57:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Tashkent
Cable title:  

UZBEKS "COMBATIVE" IN EU HUMAN RIGHTS DIALOGUE

Tags:   PREL PGOV PHUM EUN UZ 
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1. (C) Summary: The British Embassy Political Officer who
observed the May 9 EU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue
reported that the Uzbek side approached the talks with a
"combative" attitude and treated the forum as a competition
in which to score points. He noted that Uzbek officials
engaged in frequent grandstanding and attempted to bog the
talks down in generalities, blaming Europe and Western
institutions for interfering in Uzbekistan's internal
affairs. Overall, the British representative said, the talks
produced no concrete results other than a non-specific Uzbek
commitment to participate in further talks. This assessment
contrasts somewhat with the recollection of the German
Ambassador (reftel), whose government has staked considerable
political clout on restarting a productive relationship with
Uzbekistan during its EU Presidency. End summary.



2. (C) British Embassy Political Officer Ben Greenwood
(protect), who took part in the EU-Uzbekistan Human Rights
Dialogue on May 9 in Tashkent, told Poloff that the
Government of Uzbekistan approached the eight-hour series of
discussions with a "combative" attitude. An internal EU
"flash summary" of the talks, which Greenwood shared with
Poloff, characterized the atmosphere as "frank and sometimes
heated." Throughout, according to Greenwood, Uzbek officials
repeated their well-worn message to the West: Uzbekistan
desires a "relationship between equals." It "will not be
lectured to." It will reject all "politicized attempts to
interfere in Uzbekistan's internal affairs."



3. (C) The EU delegation found the talks constructive in the
sense that Uzbek officials were willing to discuss all issues
raised by the EU side. The Uzbeks reportedly gave some
indications that they were willing to cooperate with the EU
by supporting human rights-related projects of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE),
and judicial reform projects in particular. However, he
said, the Uzbeks indulged in frequent grandstanding and
stalled the discussion by dwelling on generalities.
Q


4. (C) According to Greenwood, the internal EU memo on the
talks exaggerates the Uzbek side's "readiness to admit
deficits regarding freedom of expression/media." He said
that the Uzbek interlocutors were unwilling to admit almost
any faults at all in their approach to human rights. They
reportedly insisted that all investigations and closures of
international NGOs by the authorities have been normal
law-enforcement actions. In response to EU questions on
religious freedom, including questions on harassment of
Jehovah's Witnesses, the Uzbeks replied that they were not
aware of any harassment of religious groups. When the EU
delegation bluntly suggested that the prosecution and
imprisonment of many human rights activists seem politically
motivated, the Uzbeks angrily replied that all "so-called
human rights defenders" who have been imprisoned have been
proven guilty of criminal activity in accordance with the
law. They vehemently denied press reports that imprisoned
Andijon activist Gulbahor Turayeva had undergone a second
trial in which her prison sentence had been lengthened. The
Uzbeks criticized alleged human rights violations in Europe,
including poor treatment of Muslims and ethnic minorities.
They also criticized past EU actions toward Uzbekistan as
unwarranted interference in internal affairs.



5. (C) The Uzbeks affirmed their willingness to allow the
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to resume its
prison monitoring program. But they accused ICRC of holding
up negotiations and implied that ICRC was to blame for the
continued suspension of prison visits. ICRC's Head of
Regional Delegation told Poloff separately that his Mission
is in fact planning a monitoring visit to Tashkent's main
pre-trial detention facility (septel). However, he does not
hold out great hopes of success, as he sees no genuine
willingness on the part of the Uzbeks to cooperate with ICRC.
However, the visit is planned for May 21, a week after the
EU meets to decide on the future of its sanctions against
Uzbekistan. Thus, ICRC avoids being used as a political pawn
in the sanctions debate.



6. (C) Greenwood said that the May 9 talks produced no
tangible results, other than a stated commitment by the

TASHKENT 00000947 002 OF 002


Uzbeks to participate in a roundtable discussion at an
indeterminate date with EU representatives and registered
Uzbek human rights organizations. According to the internal
EU summary of the talks, the Uzbeks also agreed to consider a
follow-up roundtable in the next six months.



7. (C) Comment: The British report on the Human Rights
Dialogue contrasted somewhat with the recollection of the
German Ambassador, who put a positive spin on the talks and
told Charge he was satisfied with the general atmospherics
(reftel). This could be explained by the fact that the
Germans have staked considerable political clout on including
Uzbekistan in the EU's Central Asia strategy during Germany's
EU Presidency.

HANSON