After the tragic events of September 11th, Kyrgyzstan was one of the first countries to support the United States in creating an international antiterrorist coalition. It opened its international airport for the deployment of U.S.-led air forces and housed an American-led airbase at Manas, which had contributed to the success of the coalition’s operations in Afghanistan.
“We are proud that Kyrgyzstan is a partner of the U.S. in fighting terrorism,” Aitmatov stated. He also noted that Kyrgyzstan would continue to cooperate with the U.S. on regional security matters, “strengthening the friendship” between the two states.
Aitmatov highlighted four main threats to security in Central Asia: instability in Afghanistan, religious extremism (especially the radical Islamic movement Hizbi-Tahrir), international terrorism, and drug trafficking. He emphasized the importance of collective international efforts in successfully overcoming these challenges.
Under the “Doctrine of the President of the Kyrgyz Republic," Kyrgyzstan has been collaborating with other states, including the U.S., Russia and China, to bring stability, security, friendship, and cooperation on the basis of equitable partnerships. One example of that collaboration is the joint Russian-Kyrgyz Kant air base that is a part of the Collective Security Treaty Organization’s defense system. Moreover, in 2001, Kyrgyzstan, along with five other members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, adopted the Shanghai Convention on Fighting Terrorism, Separatism, and Extremism. Last November, the Supreme Court of the Kyrgyz Republic adopted a decree that forbids activities of religious extremist groups in the country.
However, Aitmatov said, the Central Asian Cooperation Organization (CACO) has failed to promote effective regional cooperation and must address additional issues, such as water resources management, energy distribution, and free transit of goods and services. In 1994, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan created CACO to develop common approaches to address regional problems and to establish a framework of cooperation on economic, social, cultural and humanitarian issues, and to coordinate foreign political activity.
“ Our countries share common historic and cultural bonds and common problems. To solve these problems we need joint efforts and understanding that it is not a zero sum game, ” Aitmatov said. The Minister was confident that the Central Asian leaders could find an acceptable solution for the regional disputes and threats.
Addressing Kyrgyz domestic policy, Aitmatov reminded the audience that 2004 was proclaimed the year of social mobilization and good governance. The Kyrgyz parliament recently adopted a new constitution and a new election code, which meets international standards for free and fair elections. Currently, a draft of a new political party law, which will be critical for Kyrgyzstan’s parliamentary and Presidential elections in 2005, is being debated.
Aitmatov called Kyrgyzstan a country strongly “committed to democracy” with two successfully implemented national creeds: one to promote the rights of national minorities and the other to defend human rights. To further strengthen civil society, the government developed the Democratic Code of the Kyrgyz Republic and created the Public Council of Democratic Security.
Furthermore, over 3,000 NGOs operate in Kyrgyzstan, helping to promote democracy, reduce poverty and unemployment, and to encourage small and medium enterprises. For example, the Media Support Center Foundation, a Kyrgyz NGO, opened an independent printing house in Bishkek in 2003.
The country has experienced a stable economic growth rate with a GDP growth of 6.7 percent in 2003. The government has been implementing land and local government reforms and a poverty reduction strategy to promote future economic growth. Last year, Kyrgyzstan joined the United Nations convention against corruption and developed a national strategy for fighting corruption.
Kyrgyzstan also signed an agreement on the regulation of migration issues with Kazakhstan and Russia to provide a legal framework for free labor movement and to defend the rights of transient Kyrgyz workers in these states. Additionally, Kyrgyzstan has a strong interest in promoting cooperation with Russia in the energy sector.
Addressing the question of the Kyrgyz language legislation passed by Kyrgyzstan’s Lower House of parliament on February 12, 2004, Aitmatov said that it should be a patriotic duty of every Kyrgyz citizen to know the native language. Under the new law, candidates for government offices and university applicants must pass a Kyrgyz language test. Aitmatov said the implementation of the language law should be a “step by step process” with the government providing appropriate facilities and resources to help people learn the language.
Aitmatov concluded his presentation by stressing that Kyrgyzstan’s commitment to democracy is based on the rule of law, protection of human rights and principles of the market economy. “My country is a free and open society. We share the ideals and values of a democratic nation,” the Kyrgyz Minister of Foreign Affairs asserted.
Summary prepared by Kate Vlachtchenko, Junior Fellow with the Russian and Eurasian Program at the Carnegie Endowment.