Uzbek dictator to visit Prague in 2015

Visit of President Karimov was postponed earlier this year after outcry from Czech NGOs

Prague, Oct. 6 (ČTK) — Uzbekistan’s president, whose visit earlier to the Czech Republic this year had been postponed, will call on Prague next year, but the exact date has not been agreed on so far, Hynek Kmoníček, head of the Czech Presidential Office foreign affairs section, told the Czech News Agency today.

Kmoníček discussed the issue during his recent visit to the capital, Tashkent.

Uzbek President Islam Karimov was to visit the Czech Republic in February 2014, but Tashkent asked for it to be postponed not long after Czech government members apologized for scheduling the meeting with Karimov.

A number of Czech nongovernmental organizations criticized the visit of Karimov, labeling him one of the harshest dictators in the world.

Karimov has been ruling Uzbekistan since 1990 when he became the Uzbek Communist Party leader. He clearly won the first and last independent elections in 1991. His regime is repressive: Most politicians who dared to oppose him have ended up in prison or fled the country.

The date of the visit to Prague will reportedly depend on the Uzbek presidential election scheduled for March 2015. Though Karimov will probably be the big favorite to win the election, somebody else could arrive in Prague as the head of Uzbekistan if the visit is held after the election.

President Miloš Zeman, who promotes economic diplomacy, dismissed the criticism of Karimov’s visit.

“I am rather concerned that the investments in countries like Uzbekistan are threatened by politics that calls itself the politics of human rights protection and that in fact prevents these people, particularly President Karimov, from coming to Prague and us from telling them our view of the human rights,” Zeman said.

Zeman said contracts worth 15 billion Kč and seven agreements were not signed due to the cancelation of Karimov’s visit.

Zeman considers the Central Asian countries an alternative market where Czech firms might start trading following the sanctions imposed on Russia as a result of its role in the conflict in Ukraine.

In November, Zeman is expected to visit Kazakhstan and Tajikistan, two other former republics of the Soviet Union.

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