Rumors are circulating that London has rejected the daughter of Uzbekistan’s strongman Islam Karimov as his ambassador to the Court of St. James’s. Gulnara Karimova, the self-styled glamorous society queen, has already served as Uzbekistan’s ambassador to Spain and representative to the United Nations in Geneva. If true, the rebuff could spell trouble for Britain’s Afghanistan exit plans.
Though the idea Gulnara would seek such a sinecure is not far-fetched, for now the main source seems to be Craig Murray, a scandalous former British ambassador to Tashkent known for his debauched parties and long-standing hatred for the Karimov regime.
In an interview published April 19 with the BBC’s Uzbek service, Murray, citing “friends” in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), insists London has not agreed to Tashkent’s request.
BBC: We have asked the Foreign Office about the possible appointment of Gulnara Karimova as ambassador to the UK, but the Foreign Office said there had been no such agreement or request. You are not a member of the British government, but where are you getting this kind of information? Why should we trust you?
Murray: I worked as a member of the British government for over 20 years […] I still have many friends among former colleagues that I worked with during that time. They keep giving me information about what is going on. I’d like to stress one thing: The British government has not agreed to host Gulnara Karimova as ambassador and no deal has been achieved to this effect. But the information that there has been no such a request or demand is false. This request was sent to Britain from Tashkent.
Murray, who served in Tashkent from 2002-2004, claimed on his blog last month that Gulnara’s appointment was part of a package of concessions Karimov has demanded in exchange for allowing Britain to use his country to quit Afghanistan.
Now as a condition of facilitating our retreat, Karimov is insisting on a full visit to Tashkent by David Cameron in 2013 or 2014, a state visit by Karimov to the UK in 2015 and acceptance of Gulnara Karimova as Uzbek Ambassador in London. He is also keen to acquire a variety of state of the art UK weapons and surveillance systems for use against his own people.
Karimov is also reportedly trying to get an invite to Berlin. Rights groups have urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel to insist Tashkent improve its human rights record before issuing any invitation.
Earlier this month The Independent confirmed that British officials feel hostage to Tashkent’s demands. “Senior officials admitted yesterday that Uzbekistan's President Islam Karimov had the UK ‘over a barrel,’ after his country emerged as the favored route home when British forces are withdrawn from Afghanistan by 2014,” The Independent reported April 8.
But again the paper’s source on the Gulnara posting is Murray.
Craig Murray, a former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, also claimed Mr Karimov wanted leave to install his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, as the Uzbek ambassador in London. Ms Karimova, 39, was named in secret cables by US diplomats, revealed by WikiLeaks, as "the single most hated person in the country" with an "unquenchable thirst for money and power".
One FCO source told The Independent: “‘Karimov does seem to have us over a barrel.’ A minister added: ‘If the Uzbeks ultimately say no, there are alternatives. But it would be much harder... it is worth trying to keep them on board.’”