Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Senators: Reevaluate Uzbek Ties

Following up on a strong statement made while visiting Tashkent, Uzbekistan last month, Senators McCain, Graham, DeWine and Sununu - joined by Democrats Pat Leahy and Joe Lieberman - have dispatched a letter to the Bush Adminstration urging a reevaluation of America's relations with Uzbekistan after a brutal massacre of civilians there by government troops in mid-May.

"Particularly after freedom's advances in Ukraine, Georgia and Kyrgyzstan, we believe that the United States must be careful about being too closely associated with a government that has killed hundreds of demonstrators and refused international calls for a transparent investigation," the senators write in their letter, adding that the US should consider whether to "take action via the United Nations if Uzbekistan does not allow an independent investigation into last month's" crackdown in the city of Andjian, according to a report in the Financial Times.

The senators also "ask whether the administration knows which Uzbek forces participated in the crackdown and whether any received US military training. US-based human rights investigators are looking into allegations that US-trained Uzbek forces may have participated in the massacre." A Pentagon spokesman recently denied those allegations. The senators "urged the Bush administration to consider the repercussions of building a permanent base in Uzbekistan, and asked whether the US is exploring alternative military facilities in neighbouring countries such as Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan in order to provide the US with more flexibility to alter its relationship with Uzbekistan."

Concluding their letter, McCain and the others note "We appreciate that these are difficult questions that cut to the heart of our relationship with the government in this strategically important region. But we also believe that, in the aftermath of the Andijan massacre, America's relationship with Uzbekistan cannot remain unchanged."

I agree. Our "allies" must be made aware that actions like this against their own people have consequences, and if we do nothing, our silence speaks loudly. It is good that the State Department has been notching up pressure against the Uzbek government over recent days, and calls for an international investigation should continue.

- The New York Times also will run a report on the letter Thursday, and the Washington Post editorialized on this issue Wednesday.


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