Robert Blake, US State Department assistant secretary of state for South and Central Asian Affairs. (Photo: US State Department)
Kyrgyzstan's government has failed to win the confidence of its Uzbek minority after ethnic violence in the southern part of the country forced hundreds of thousands of Uzbeks to flee earlier this summer, a top US State Department official has said.
The official, Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Robert Blake, declined to criticize directly Kyrgyzstan's new government. But, describing a recent trip to Bishkek and Osh, he drew attention to episodes that have caused unease among ethnic Uzbeks.
“Fear and tension remain, especially among ethnic Uzbeks in the south. In Uzbekistan’s displaced persons camps, although there were no reports of force to promote returns, reports of psychological pressure, monetary incentives, threats of loss of citizenship, coercion and/or encouragement to participate in the June 27 referendum, and concerns for family members who remained in Kyrgyzstan may have factored into the rapid repatriation of those who were displaced,” Blake told a July 27 hearing of the US Helsinki Commission.
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Joshua Kucera is a Washington, DC,-based freelance writer who specializes in security issues in Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East.
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