In an exclusive interview only a few hours after yesterday's announcement that the EU will ease sanctions against Belarus and Uzbekistan, a senior French government official told RFE/RL that the EU will continue to push for progress on human rights questions in those countries.
Rama Yade, French Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and Human Rights, stressed that "Europe seeks to foster progress in Uzbekistan and Belarus. There have been gestures, for example the release of several prisoners. In response, Europe is making a gesture too. But we expect more from these countries. Last week, for example, I received Human Rights Watch, whose representative cannot even get accreditation in Uzbekistan."
"It is the same thing for Belarus. We are not throwing in the towel on human rights, on the contrary. We believe that making gestures may help bring change in Belarus and Uzbekistan. If nothing comes in response, we will draw conclusions. We are trying to push for the release of political prisoners, we are trying to obtain more freedom of expression. We are conducting a firm dialogue that doesn't compromise on human rights."
Yade was speaking during her first visit to RFE/RL's Prague headquarters: "Your organization is a symbol of democracy and freedom, and a first step on the path toward democracy," the Secretary said about RFE/RL's mission to provide news and information in countries lacking free and independent media. "It is important for those who resist to know that they're not alone, that they have political support."
During her visit, Yade also visited RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, where she thanked RFA director Akbar Ayazi "for the essential work you and your colleagues do." She mentioned her September visit to Afghanistan in her interview with RFE/RL. "This country has been suffering for 25 years," she said, "and the international community wants to support Afghanistan in its reconstruction process."
[Click here for the full interview
with Rama Yade on a wide range of issues including the humanitarian crisis in Georgia, this year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, her recent visit to Afghanistan, and EU relations with Belarus and Uzbekistan.]