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Central Asia

Introduction

1. France was one of the first Western countries to recognize the independence of the nations that make up Central Asia and to establish diplomatic relations with them. For France, just like for the European Union, the attention paid to Central Asia has been increasing with the identification of hydrocarbon resources in the Caspian Basin, making it one of Europe’s future sources of supply, especially in light of the post-11 September 2001 situation. France has embassies in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Tajikistan. France is represented in Kyrgyzstan by its ambassador to Kazakhstan. A diplomatic base, placed under the authority of this latter but directed by a diplomat permanently based in Bishkek, was opened in early September 2004.

2. Our involvement in Afghanistan and the logistical opportunities on which we have been able to rely in Central Asia (stationing of troops in 2002 in Kyrgyzstan, presence of an air detachment in Tajikistan, overflight rights) have caused us to enhance our political dialogue and our political, defence and national security cooperation with the countries of the region. We opened an embassy in Dushanbe in 2002. Our high-level contacts are increasing: the President of the Republic held talks with his Kazakh and Uzbek counterparts in Prague in November 2002 and again with his Kazakh counterpart outside the NATO Summit in Istanbul in June 2004; the Tajik President visited Paris in December 2002, as did the Kazakh President in June 2003 and the Kyrgyz President in October 2003; the Secretary of State visited Central Asia in November 2002, as did the Minister responsible for Foreign Trade in May 2003, the Minister of Industry in November 2004 (Kazakhstan) and the Minister of Defence in June and July 2003 (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan), visiting Tajikistan more regularly.

3. Having said that, along with our European partners, we are showing ourselves to be vigilant with regard to totalitarian deviations and the deteriorating human rights situation. This is particularly true in Turkmenistan, where this deterioration has been condemned by an EU initiative following condemnations issued by the OSCE, the Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations General Assembly (2003 and 2004). In Uzbekistan, we have supported - along with our European partners - the review of the engagement strategy of the EBRD, which decided to suspend almost all of its loans to the public sector and to redirect its activities to promote the fight against poverty and the development of small- and medium-sized businesses. Moreover, we bring individual cases of human rights violations to the attention of the Uzbek authorities on a regular basis.

4. Our trade with the countries of Central Asia is expanding progressively, in particular with those countries that boast a substantial supply of hydrocarbons. Kazakhstan is by far our leading trading partner, followed by Turkmenistan (construction of a refinery in Turkmenbashi, numerous Bouygues projects) and Uzbekistan (projects in the areas of cotton and water). A latecomer to Kazakhstan, Total holds 20.3% of the shares in the Kashagan oil field and hopes to acquire new stakes in the exploitation of offshore fields. Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are eligible for the “Emerging Countries Fund” (Réserve Pays Emergents, RPE), which supports development projects.

5. For us, the stability of the Central Asian countries, which are especially exposed to new threats (organised crime, drug trafficking from Afghanistan, terrorism), is a key issue. Held in Paris in May 2003, the Conference on Drug Routes helped raise international awareness of Central Asia’s strategic role in drug trafficking. This is the mindset we have adopted in directing our cooperation with regard to security in the region (appointment for two years of a regional police attaché in Tashkent, assisting Almaty since the summer of 2003, and creation of a post in Dushanbe in the autumn of 2004). We are relaying this cooperation at European Union and OSCE levels focussing on three main lines: enhancing border security (European Border Management for Central Asia - BOMCA - which is entering its third phase with €836,800, increasing funds for the following phase with €8.58 million), combating drug trafficking (Europe’s Central Asia Drug Action Programme - CADAP - with $4.5 million for 2003-2004) and training police forces (the OSCE’s pilot project in Kyrgyzstan).

6. In late 2001, the EU doubled the amount of aid allocated to Central Asia (TACIS programme): it now amounts to €50 million/year and has clear priorities: encouraging reforms and the state of law, enhancing security and border control, supporting the establishment of a legal and regulatory framework that encourages foreign investment and the development of local initiatives. The EU has entered into partnership and cooperation agreements (PCA) with Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and, just recently, with Tajikistan. (October 2004).

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