August 05, 2007

Kyrgyzstan: Foreign Minister On SCO Summit And Regional Relations

Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Karabaev (file photo)
(AFP)

BISHKEK, August 3, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service spoke today with the country's foreign minister, Ednan Karabaev, about a range of issues. Topics included the August 16 Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit, relations with Beijing, and border squabbles.


RFE/RL: Kyrgyzstan plans to host the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit beginning on August 16. What are the main topics that will be considered during the summit?
"Kyrgyz-Chinese relations are developing. The 'espionage-mania' will not be an obstacle."

Ednan Karabaev: Of course, the heads of six member states of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization will attend the summit. They are Kyrgyzstan, Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan -- there will also be presidents of observer countries Iran and Mongolia, as well as the foreign ministers of India and Pakistan. There will be many other guests, the president of Afghanistan, [Hamid Karzai,] among them. For the first time, Turkmen President [Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov] and the deputy head of the UN chairman on policy issues will arrive upon the invitation of Kyrgyz President Kurmanbek Bakiev. As far as the agenda of the summit is concerned, [there are] issues of strengthening and deepening cooperation between participating states. Several agreements will also be signed, including an agreement on long-term friendly neighbor relations. And also, an agreement on information security will be signed.

RFE/RL: As you know, during the last Shanghai [Cooperation Organization] meeting in Astana, the issue of the U.S. air base at Manas Airport was very sensitive for Kyrgyzstan. And it is expected that this issue will be raised again at this summit -- [presumably] due to strained relations between Iran and the United States. There are rumors in the local media that if relations worsen, then the United States might use Manas Air Base for military operations against Iran. Could you please express your opinion on this issue?

Karabaev: I think our colleagues perfectly understand the role of [Manas] air base in the reconstruction process for Afghanistan. If such an issue arises, it'll be used only for counterterrorism operations in Afghanistan. Generally speaking about the [Manas] air base, Kyrgyzstan is a member of the international coalition against terrorism and we are therefore providing Manas airport as our contribution to operations against terrorism. According to the agreement, [Manas Air Base] cannot be used for conducting any [unrelated] military operations. Regarding possible bombardment of Iran, I can only say that many words have already been spoken. We all understand that Iran's leadership is looking for diplomatic solutions to the current situation.

RFE/RL: Kyrgyzstan recently saw an espionage scandal [when] the Kyrgyz security service arrested [on June 19] a citizen of the People's Republic of China -- the biggest member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. If the charges are true, how will it impact Kyrgyz-Chinese relations? What are the reasons for these scandals? How will it affect Kyrgyz foreign policy?

Karabaev: As far as I know, [the alleged Chinese agent] supposedly received a draft constitution. But I think this information -- about the draft constitution and about the work of parliament -- is not secret information. Needless to say, Kyrgyz-Chinese relations will not be changed. For example, when this so-called "espionage scandal" arose, the foreign minister of the People's Republic of China was visiting Kyrgyzstan. I discussed many issues with my Chinese colleague in the areas of economic development and trade relations after the visit of our president to China. It is a realization of the biggest projects -- such as construction of a railroad, construction of highways, and construction of big trade complexes near the [Kyrgyz-Chinese] border. On August 15, the [president] of the People's Republic of China, Hu Jintao, will arrive in Bishkek to pay a working visit. Kyrgyz-Chinese relations are developing. The "espionage-mania" will not be an obstacle.

RFE/RL: There is a good Kyrgyz motto that it is better to have a good neighbor nearby than a distant relative far away. How is the border issue with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan being addressed? The fact that border issues have not been resolved has resulted in some difficulties for Kyrgyz citizens; you may be aware of this process. What problems have already been resolved?

Karabaev: At the present time, the process of settling border issues is ongoing. The root of the problem appeared in 1924. At that time, demarcation of borders was often subject to change. Therefore, many changes were not approved legally. Names of many places were changed in many documents. One place used to have several names. At present, the biggest parts of disputed territories with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been determined. The most important thing is that we understand the importance of this process and are ready to seek a compromise. The security of each country in the entire region depends on the completion of this process.

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