OSCE dithers on sending police mission to Kyrgyzstan

By Mark Hallam, David Levitz

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) failed to reach a decision Saturday on whether to send an international police mission into Kyrgyzstan to help authorities restore stability after a government overthrow in April and ethnic violence in June, which human rights groups say claimed up to 2,000 lives.

Though the decision has been put off until a Thursday meeting in Vienna. But the OSCE's meetings are on track, according to sources close to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, who along with his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner, called Saturday's meeting in Kazakhstan.

Herbert Salber, the head of the OSCE's conflict prevention center, also remained confident that the mission would go forward.

"Our proposal to send police officers to Kyrgyzstan is being assessed by OSCE member-countries," he said. "I think in the next few weeks, we will see their first arrivals."
Twin missions?
Otunbayeva seized power, but wants to establish democracy The police advisory group currently being discussed by the OSCE would only be concerned with maintaining the fragile peace in the country; 52 officers would be sent for the first four months, with the option for a further 50 after time.

"The tasks of this mission are first of all advising the Kyrgyz police," said Salber. "They will be assisting, and also monitoring, the Kyrgyz police."

Kyrgyzstan's interim president Roza Otunbayeva, who was swept to power in public revolts in April, agrees with the need for a police mission, although she said the mandate needed to be precisely clarified.

Westerwelle and Kouchner also threw their weight behind an international probe into the causes of last month's deadly violence between Kyrgyz and Uzbeks in the south of Kyrgyzstan.

The two diplomats visited the city of Osh, which was the epicenter of the unrest, on Friday, issuing a joint statement afterwards which said: "The aftermath of the violence and destruction is overwhelming."

The clashes were the culmination of repeated unrest and the mass displacement of citizens which began during the ousting of President Kurmanbek Bakiyev in early April.

Otunbayeva's interim government is promising elections in October, and is seeking to reform the country into a parliamentary democracy, in a region where autocratic governments are more commonplace.