Uzbekistan. At the beginning of the year, Uzbekistan
agreed with the United States that non-military US equipment
should be transported through the country to Afghanistan.
criticism of the country's repression of human rights has
been mitigated in recent years as the US military has
increased the need for allies among Afghanistan's
neighboring countries. When the state-sponsored US
organization Freedom House ranked freedom of the press in
the world during the year, Uzbekistan ended up in place 189
of 195. The repression of regime-critical journalists and
other opposition activists continued with so-called
disappearances, captive countries without trial and torture.
Against this background, Norway decided to refrain from
using a Uzbekistan airbase for intermediate landings with
transport to Afghanistan.
In the spring, the EU agreed with Azerbaijan, Georgia,
Turkey and Egypt to build the so-called Nabucco gas pipeline
from the Caspian Sea area to Europe. According to reports,
Uzbekistan was pressured by the Russian Federation not to
join the settlement.
Four years after the Andizyan massacre, when hundreds of
opposites are believed to have been killed by security
forces, in the spring, Fergana Valley in eastern Uzbekistan
became uneasy. According to independent media, a group of
gunmen attacked a police station on the border with
Kyrgyzstan, and at least two people were killed.
In June, nearly a ton of heroin worth the equivalent of
over SEK 2 billion was burned. It happened outside the
capital Tashkent in the presence of diplomats and
journalists. According to authorities, the drug had been
used as evidence in trials. Uzbekistan claims to have fired
over 43 tonnes of drugs in the last 15 years. Smuggling from
Afghanistan through Central Asia has increased.
During the summer, Uzbekistan participated in talks to
form a security pact in the region as counterbalance to
NATO, and in which the Russian Federation, Tajikistan,
Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus would also participate.
However, there were stated doubts in several countries.
After Uzbekistan released some political prisoners and
decided to abandon the death penalty, the EU decided in the
autumn to lift the arms embargo on the country that has been
in effect since the Andizjan massacre in 2005.
The December election was seen by the oppressed
opposition as an attempt by President Islam Karimov to show
the outside world a facade of democracy. Although four
parties participated, all supported the president. The OSCE
considered it pointless to send any major delegation of
election observers. A second round of elections would be
held in January 2010.