Steinmeier urges Tajik leaders to reform

3rd November 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 November 2006, Dushanbe (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on the leadership of Tajikistan Friday to press ahead with moves to modernize the Tajik state and society. President Emomali Rahmonov promised Germany's chief diplomat he would continue with democratic reforms and with the implementation of the rule of law, Steinmeier said. Central Asian countries have both common interests and common concerns, including the row over Iran's nuclear programme and the situation in Afghan

3 November 2006

Dushanbe (dpa) - German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier called on the leadership of Tajikistan Friday to press ahead with moves to modernize the Tajik state and society.

President Emomali Rahmonov promised Germany's chief diplomat he would continue with democratic reforms and with the implementation of the rule of law, Steinmeier said.

Central Asian countries have both common interests and common concerns, including the row over Iran's nuclear programme and the situation in Afghanistan, Steinmeier noted.

Tajiks go to the polls to elect a new president on Monday, with the authoritarian Rahmonov, who has been in power since 1994, expected to be returned by a large majority.

Large segments of the opposition want to boycott the poll to protest obstructions of their campaigns. Steinmeier called on the Tajik leadership to cooperate closely with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which is deploying monitors to the polls.

On Friday afternoon, the German foreign minister was due to fly to Kyrgyzstan, where in the capital Bishkek demonstrators were gathering to demand constitutional reforms.

On Saturday, Steinmeier concludes his central Asian tour, which has already taken him to Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

In Turkmenistan Thursday, Steinmeier criticized officials for the country's slow progress in implementing rule of law and human rights.

Steinmeier said Turkmenistan and been "too halting" in carrying out political reforms.

The Berlin minister made the comments after his talks with President Saparmurat Niyazov, who as president for life rules as a virtual dictator. Steinmeier admitted that in his three hours of talks, the two sides' differences could not be overcome.

However, some "small progress" could be seen in the fact that Niyazov had agreed to a visit by the German parliament's human rights committee.

Last month, members of the group were stopped at the last minute from entering Turkmenistan. Niyazov has repeatedly spoken out against what he regards as European intervention and has accused the European Union with "subversive activities."

Human rights organizations list Turkmenistan right next to North Korea as one of the world's most repressive regimes. Dissidents are brutally suppressed and there are no press or political freedoms.

The group Human Rights Watch had asked that Steinmeier seek an explanation from Niyazov about the death of human rights activist Ogulsapar Muradova, who died in prison in September. Her autopsy showed that she had strangle marks on her neck and other serious injuries, while her two lawyers remain in jail.

Three children of Muradova, who was a journalist for the US-funded Radio Free Europe, have been prevented from leaving the country, Human Rights Watch said.

Germany holds the EU presidency for the first half of 2007 and Steinmeier's trip is partly aimed at investigating the possibility of forging a unified EU policy for the region.

DPA

Subject: German news

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