US steps up call for democratization in Central Asia

Mar 11, 2011 12:00 AM

The United States is stepping up its call for Central Asian republics to take steps toward democracy by referring to the recent uprisings in the Middle East.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia Robert Blake said that the situations in Tunisia and Egypt make the case that Central Asian nations “need to be sure that their political and economic systems respond to the aspirations of their young people, and that they address things like corruption," a report said. Blake also said that regional governments remain “suspicious of democracy,” according to the report.

Kyrgyzstan’s move toward democracy and its free and fair parliamentary elections last October, however, make it an exception in the region, Blake noted. The United States is attempting to deepen ties in the region, an important northern route for non-military supplies for US forces in Afghanistan, Blake told a Congressional hearing in Washington, DC.
Washington is competing with Moscow and Beijing for influence in the region, while US energy companies are exploiting oil and gas resources in Kazakhstan and neighbouring republics, he noted. The US is working with Central Asian governments on counter-terror and counter-drug operations.

However, despite “good conversations” on human rights, democracy and religious freedom, little democratic progress can be seen except in Kyrgyzstan, Blake said.
Regional governments are holding a tight rein over their countries owing to the volatile situation in neighbouring Afghanistan and the ethnic unrest in southern Kyrgyzstan last summer when clashes between Kyrgyzs and ethnic Uzbeks left hundreds dead, Blake added.

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