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NATO to gain access to Central Asia

NATO parliamentary assembly will be held on 12-16 November 2004 in Venice on the occasion of NATO's 50th anniversary.

The recent visit by the NATO Secretary General to Central Asian states (CA) states within the framework of “Partnership for Peace” programme was possibly organized on this occasion. The focus of the forthcoming assembly will be Central Asia and the Caucasus.

The NATO Secretary General toured 5 countries. The analysis of the visit shows that the NATO political climate is changing. According to J.H.Scheffer, the objective of the visit was partnership and close cooperation with CA states. But the NATO military presence in this region was quite visible during the visit. NATO Resident Representative Robert Siemens will work in the region. Obviously the improvement of relations between CIS countries and Russia causes concern among geographically remote countries. 

Extension of NATO presence in Afghanistan up to 2007 is another cause for interest in CA. Besides, some of the CA countries are already developing active cooperation with NATO. The others in view of new challenges to security gave consent during the visit by the NATO Secretary General. As noted, new training centres will be set up. The graduates will further on work under the NATO aegis. It is noteworthy that “Cazbat” (Kazak) fought in Iraq, a NATO military base already operates in Kyrghyzstan. Russian and Indian military bases operate in Tajikistan.

The following are the excepts from a press conference of NATO Secretary General in Tashkent which will clarify some aspects.

Question: Mr. Secretary General, a week before Russia has put into operation a military base in Tajikistan. Another military base was set up in Kyrghyzstan. Also there is a NATO military base in Kyrghyzstan. What are your comments on the existence of three military bases in these Central Asian countries. In which of the Central Asian states  NATO is going  set up the training centre?

Answer: As far as military bases are concerned, I think that it is the sovereign right of any state including Central Asia states to set up a military base in any part of the world. I discussed the setting up of Russian military bases in Tajikistan with the Russian Defense Minister. I understand that this decision depends on Tajikistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrghyzstan.

As far as the second question is concerned, there is no way out but to combine efforts in opposing the ideas fraught with total destruction of the world. We just have to combine efforts. This is actually the purpose of my visit.

Question: Please, Mr. Safayev, (Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan) say how far from or how close are you to the conclusion of a transit agreement with NATO and is there a need to reconsider the Uzbek law for this purpose? Could you partly summarize Uzbekistan-NATO cooperation? 

Second Question for Gen. Secy.: Mr. Scheffer, the documents we have been provided says that the Armed Force of Uzbekistan need rearmament. What is meant here-arms, machinery or something else?

S.Safayev: We work together on issues relating to an agreement on transit. We have already prepared proposals in line with our internal legislation. They have been sumbitted to the NATO Headquarters. They are under study now. We do not foresee any complications and difficulties the more so that arrangements on NATO transit cargo via all the countries from Europe to Afghanistan have been reached.

As for the second question, you know that Uzbekistan-NATO cooperation is developing under “Partnership for Peace” and PARP programmes which among the others provide to render technical assistance to the military reform in Uzbekistan, bring in line the military structures of the two countries, counter cross-border threats, conduct joint military exercises and handle emergencies. You may recall successful exercises in Ferghana in 2002.

As the NATO Secretary General rightly noted, Uzbekistan is so far the only Central Asia country which has presented its programme to NATO. A few weeks back First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uzbekistan V. Norov held consultations on this issues in Brussels. The consultations were very successful.

J. Scheffer: We discussed a wide range of issues with the Defense and Foreign Ministers of Uzbekistan including the Uzbek Armed Force, training of peacekeeping force, I mean infantry battalions. We did not discuss the rearmament of the Uzbek army. This issue is beyond our co mpetence.

The aforesaid testifies that NATO is very keen to gain access to Central Asia countries. Central Asia countries need NATO to strengthen peace and oppose new global threats.