With fighting continuing in Central Asia, several high-profile political leaders and human rights activists have called for negotiations between regional governments and Islamic insurgents. Such appeals, however, are proving premature. The rhetoric of both Uzbek and Kyrgyz leaders remains adamant, and they appear committed to the pursuit of a military solution.
Some observers say that Central Asian leaders, in particular Uzbekistan's Islam Karimov, have pursued policies that greatly limit their desire and ability to compromise.
"Karimov has been steadfast in portraying the insurgents as international terrorists," said Cassandra Cavanaugh, a Central Asia specialist for Human Rights Watch. "For a man [Karimov] who won't allow even the most peaceful forms of dissent at home, it would be difficult for him to enter into negotiations with those that he has described as terrorists."
Some observers suggested that the willingness to negotiate might be viewed by insurgents as a sign of governmental weakness. Thus, any peace-talk initiative by governments at this stage could serve to fuel the insurgency, rather than extinguish it. "Some might see it as a sign of military weakness," Cavanaugh said.
The latest call for negotiations has come from Said Abdullo Nuri, the former leader of the United Tajik Opposition (UTO). On August 29, Nuri said the peace plan that ended Tajikistan's 1992-97 civil war could serve as the basis for a similar arrangement among regional governments and the insurgents, who reportedly belong to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU). The group is fighting to topple Karimov's government. Others, including Ramazan Dyryldayev, the head of the Kyrgyz Committee for Human Rights, have also backed peace talks. [For additional information see the EurasiaNet Daily Digest].
Regional officials wasted no time in dismissing the prospect of negotiations. Karimov lambasted Nuri's proposal, describing the former UTO leader "as a puppet in the hands of international centers," the Interfax news agency reported. Meanwhile, Kyrgyz Gen. Bolot Djanuzakov told the Itar-Tass news agency: "No dialogue can be maintained with
Justin Burke is editor of EurasiaNet.