The United Tajik Opposition (UTO) yesterday suspended its participation in the Attestation Commission, a joint government-opposition body mandated to oversee the “integration” of the opposition guerrillas into government forces. That integration constitutes the essence of the military dimension of the 1997 peace agreements. Their political dimension comes within the purview of the National Reconciliation Commission, from which the opposition has also withdrawn. Citing evidence that the government seeks unilateral advantages in implementing the military agreements, the opposition considers that its participation in the joint commission under these circumstances would be meaningless.
Russia’s ambassador to Tajikistan, Yevgeny Belov, reacted by urging the UTO to immediately rejoin both commissions, renouncing “ultimata” and “recriminations.” Belov, seconded to some extend by UN special envoy Jan Kubis, places the onus for the fate of the peace process on the UTO. Belov and Kubis are citing the 1997 agreement’s ban on “mutual recriminations”–an argument which does not address the substantive issues in dispute (Itar-Tass, June 1).
On the military side, one key issue is the government’s stonewalling on the previously agreed appointment of UTO commander in chief Mirzo Zio as defense minister. All the “power” ministries–defense, internal affairs, state security–are firmly in government hands.
In a broader sense, all decisions on military and security policy are being made by Russia and the Dushanbe government, to the complete exclusion of the UTO from the decision-making process. Just yesterday, Belov and the commanders of Russian Army and Border troops in Tajikistan conferred with President Imomali Rahmonov and his “power” ministers on military cooperation between Moscow and Dushanbe. The discussions covered Russian technical assistance to Tajik government troops, “protection of Tajikistan’s external borders,” basing arrangements for Russian troops in the country and other issues. Nor was the UTO consulted when the Russian and Tajik governments signed their recent agreements on military cooperation, which inter alia legalized the presence of Russian forces in Tajikistan (see the Monitor, April 21, May 6, 18, 20; The Fortnight in Review, April 23, May 21). The UTO opposes such legalization and was therefore simply ignored. Under current circumstances, the “integration” of UTO forces with those of the government risks turning into a process of unilateral disarmament of the opposition.
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