Response to Ambassador Gyorgy Szabo, OSCE Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan

As delivered by Ambassador Ian Kelly
to the Permanent Council, Vienna
June 7, 2012

Thank you, Mr. Chairman,

The United States extends a very warm welcome to Ambassador Szabo on his first appearance before the Permanent Council as Project Coordinator in Uzbekistan.

Ambassador Szabo, your report does an excellent job of detailing ways in which the OSCE is making a difference for the people of Uzbekistan, and it highlights the Center’s challenges in its work with the Government of Uzbekistan.

The United States is pleased by the efforts you have made to strengthen and enhance cooperation between the Government of Uzbekistan and OSCE institutions on a wide range of issues, from addressing trans-national threats to promoting media freedom.  Your facilitation of visits by the Representative on Media Freedom and the High Commissioner on National Minorities offered a best practice for the use of the OSCE’s expertise.

We also applaud your endeavor to implement the Ministerial Council Decisions of 2007 and 2011 in order to increase engagement with Afghanistan.  We regret that you have not enjoyed greater success.  We urge Uzbek government officials to accept your offer to explore the possibilities of strengthening the role of the OSCE in assisting Afghanistan during this crucial period of transition.

In the First Dimension, the United States was pleased to host a visit by Uzbek government officials on the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Public Key Directory.  We were also pleased to provide funding in support of the biometric passport program.  We especially appreciate your work to increase the effectiveness of socio-political organizations and to enhance the framework regulating their operation.  These efforts supported President Karimov’s statement in November 2010 on the importance of developing civil society.  This is a laudable goal, and we hope to see more cooperation from the Government that takes full advantage of the Project Coordinator’s Office in this shared endeavor.

In the Second Dimension, we welcome the Office’s programs to assist Uzbekistan to become more effective in combating money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism.  In this regard and also in relation to the Office’s work on counter-narcotics and trafficking in persons, we urge you to coordinate closely with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s regional office in Tashkent.  We also appreciate your work in anti-corruption training, water resource management and providing assistance to farmers in the rural parts of Uzbekistan.

In the Human Dimension, we applaud the Office for its programmatic activity in police reform.  The Office has provided invaluable training to police officers on the importance of protecting human rights while combating transnational threats.  Your assistance to the Ombudsman’s Office and the Human Rights Protection Department can help with Uzbekistan’s fulfillment of its Human Dimension commitments.

We encourage still greater engagement with the Government of Uzbekistan on the fundamental freedoms that are at the heart of the Helsinki Final Act, including freedom of expression, freedom of association, freedom of assembly, and freedom of religion.  There remains, for example, serious concern about freedom of religion for those persons practicing minority faiths, including Protestants, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Hare Krishnas, and non-mainstream Islamic communities.  We urge the Government to work with the Office of the Project Coordinator in implementing and fulfilling each of its OSCE commitments in these areas.

Last year, we welcomed the Government’s completion of the project agreement process in a timely fashion.  We are disappointed to learn this year, however, that long and repeated delays for the approval of projects continue.  We call upon the Government of Uzbekistan to bring an end to these delays, which often lead to wasted time, energy and money—something no participating State can afford in this difficult fiscal environment.

We are pleased that you see relations with the host government as stable and that Uzbekistan has expressed its willingness to hold regular project evaluation meetings on a quarterly basis.  We remain concerned, however, about the staffing difficulties your report details.  We hope the government will be more flexible and cooperative in resolving future staffing issues more efficaciously.

We also take this opportunity to call on Uzbekistan to pay its dues to the OSCE.  It is now more than three million Euros in arrears.  These arrears are unacceptable, as is the Government of Uzbekistan’s practice of taxing local staff at the Project Coordinator’s Office.

Thank you again, Ambassador Szabo, and please be assured that the Government of the United States fully supports the crucial work you and your team are engaged in for the benefit of the people of Uzbekistan.

Thank you Mr. Chairman.