Der Spiegel, Germany
Aug 1 2005

Yankee Go Home, Says Uzbek Dictator

On Friday, Uzbekistan's dictator issued an ultimatum to the US: get
out in six months or less. As Germany also has a base in the country
- from which it operates missions in neighboring Afghanistan -
questions over the role of German troops there came up on Monday's
editorial pages. Also under discussion: Turkey's EU aspirations and
its non-recognition of Cyprus.


Traditionally closer to Moscow than Washington, Uzbekistan is a
strategic point for the US military

Uzbek President Islam Karimov's demand that the US evacuate his
country in less than six months does not come as a surprise. Ever
since he used Tiananmen-style tactics to put down mass protests last
May, he's been staging a prodigal son-like return to Vladimir Putin's
table. After helping the Americans with logistical support for their
operations in Afghanistan, Karimov's return to Moscow's sphere of
influence looks like a cheating spouse crawling back to a
dysfunctional marriage after a failed tryst. Getting in line with
Russia and other authoritarian governments like those of Kyrgyzstan,
Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and China under the guise of regional
cooperation means trying to run the country as things were before,
without dealing with the pesky human rights issues that have been
coming up lately. It is also a move to reset the balance of power to
something more like its pre-911 configuration.

US support for the evacuation of Uzbek refugees fleeing government
repression seems to have been the last straw for Karimov. Responses
from Washington have been mixed - some are describing the future
pull-out as the loss of an important strategic position, while others
say that the base was not that significant, and that other solutions
can easily be found. In any case, it remains a key supply point for
German troops in Afghanistan. They have not been asked to pull out,
but human rights issues in the country now have the German press
questioning Uzbekistan's position.

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung says that the Uzbek government's
order constitutes an act of desperation by the government. It writes:
"The recent evacuation of Uzbek refugees from Kyrgyzstan has made it
clear: the US and the Europeans no longer believe that the Uzbek
government was really putting down an Islamist revolt when it wildly
opened fire on its own people on May 13 in Andijan." The paper says
that "since the terrorist attacks in London, the US and Europe must
make it clear that the fight against terror cannot be a blank check
for dictators to shoot people down or torture them. The people in
Andijan rose up against an unjust regime and were gunned down.
Citizens of Andijan took part in an act of civil self defense against
a torture-regime. They have nothing to do with the London bombers."
Referring to the German troops in Uzbekistan, the paper writes:
"Germany should evacuate the Bundeswehr base in Termez - used to
supply troops in Afghanistan - as quickly as possible. One cannot
create peace in Afghanistan while operating from a country that mows
people down."

The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung noted that the German
troops in Uzbekistan were in a difficult situation. "Unlike the
Americans, they can only reach their contingent in Afghanistan via
the Termez base. This has already forced the German government to be
friendlier than it would like to be with the Karimow regime, and turn
a blind's eye toward Andijan - a hundred kilometers from Termez". The
commentator goes on to say that "a newly reinforced Karimow could be
tempted to compensate for the loss of American base-leasing payments
by turning towards Berlin. This too should be taken into
consideration when the extension of the Afghanistan mandate is
brought up."

Membership one day?

On Friday, Turkey finally signed the Ankara Protocol to extend the EU
customs union to the 10 new EU member states including Cyprus. But
then Prime Minister Erogan turned around and said that Turkey doesn't
recognize the Republic of Cyprus as a legitimate representative of
the divided island. On Monday, German editorialists addressed the
issue, asking whether Turkey should be allowed to have its cake and
eat it too.

The Berliner Zeitung writes that "Turkey wants to be a member of the
European Union, but refuses diplomatic recognition of Cyprus, a
member of this union. You would think that this is completely
unacceptable, but the British EU presidency and other EU states
support Ankara." The paper says this allows for diplomatic
maneuvering: British Prime Minister Blair for example, can now let
Erdogan believe that the signature does not mean recognition of
Cyprus. Why leave things so unclear? Because the EU needs Turkey, the
paper says. "No other country applying to join the EU has received so
many concessions even before the accession talks begin. Human rights
violations, repressive policy towards Kurds, denial of genocide in
Armenia - all of these things seem to be of secondary importance. The
reasons for this can be read in the EU commission's recommendation in
favor of accession negotiations." The key issues which make Turkey an
attractive member include its strategic positioning along energy
supply routes, its access to Caspian oil and central Asian markets,
as well its enormous military potential. The paper concludes by
quoting the EU Commissioner GŁnter Verheugen. "Turkish accession
would make the EU a top global political player."

The conservative Frankfurter Allegemine Zeitung on the other hand is
far less positive about Turkish accession. "One can agree with the
opinion of the Cyprus government that it is strange that a country
would like to join an organization of which it does not recognize all
of the members." The paper goes on to say that "it does not bode well
that the accession negotiations are beginning with such leniency.
Negotiations consist of giving and taking. So far, Turkey has taken

The business daily Handelsblatt is also pessimistic about Turkey's
stance. "Someone who wants to join a club should respect its rules,
and above all its members," it says. "Otherwise conflict will
threaten not only the admission of the aspirant; it will also
endanger the club itself. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
must finally learn this. For years, Turkey has been pushing for entry
into the European club. On October 3, it will begin accession talks -
and here, one should really expect concessions. But Erdogan clearly
has little regard for etiquette." As for the Role of the EU in the
Cyprus talks, the editors say "The EU must urge the Cypriots to come
to an agreement. But it must not allow Turkey to dictate the rules.
It is now up to the British presidency to postpone accession
negotiations until the interests of all members are taken care of.
Including those of Cyprus."