UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
UZBEKISTAN: NATO ban will not impact on Afghan operations
KABUL, 25 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - A decision by Uzbekistan to no longer allow European North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) members to use its territory or airspace, would not have an impact on the work of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) - currently led by NATO - in neighbouring Afghanistan, an ISAF official said on Thursday.
"It is not envisaged that this will affect ISAF's mission which indeed is set to expand to provide security assistance to the Afghan government throughout the south in 2006 and eventually the whole of the country," Maj Andrew Elmes, ISAF spokesman in Kabul, said.
Uzbekistan told the European members of NATO that it would no longer allow them to use its airspace or territory as a rear base for their peacekeeping operations in neighbouring Afghanistan, NATO officials said on Wednesday.
The ban will take effect from 1 January and it is being viewed as a response to an EU decision to impose visa bans on 12 top Uzbek officials and an arms embargo on Uzbekistan, following the mass killings in the eastern Uzbek city of Andijan in May.
Uzbek security forces were involved in the quelling of a rebellion in the city in which hundreds of people were reportedly killed. The Uzbek authorities, however, put the number at 187 and said they were mostly "foreign-paid terrorists".
"Countries contributing to ISAF use a number of bases in the country and the region, including Dushanbe [in Tajikistan], Dubai [in UAE] and airports within Afghanistan and it is trusted that this will allow the continuation of their support to their troops and bases, be it in Kabul or the ISAF provincial reconstruction teams around the north and west.
The decision is most likely to affect Germany which uses a Uzbek base to provide backup for the troops in Afghanistan.
Germany is seeking alternative sites for an airbase it currently operates in Uzbekistan as a staging post for its forces flying to and from Afghanistan, an official said in Berlin on Thursday.
German government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm said talks were also going on with NATO about alternative sites.
Tashkent ordered US troops to leave the air base built at its southwestern Khanabad Airport after Washington condemned the May crackdown.
Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov said on Thursday that Moscow had no plans to take over the Khanabad base vacated by US troops this week.
"We have no plans on this account," the Interfax news agency quoted Ivanov as saying on a visit to the Russian city of Perm in the Urals.
Russia has "an airbase at Kant, which is developing and we don't need new bases," he said, referring to a Russian installation in the Central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan, which neighbours Uzbekistan. Earlier this month, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Uzbek leader Islam Karimov signed an alliance treaty providing for mutual assistance in case of aggression.
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