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Kyrgyz-U.S. Relationship On Course, Foreign Minister Says

(Washington, DC--March 4, 2004) The Foreign Minister of Kyrgyzstan told a recent RFE/RL briefing audience that the current "bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and the United States are a strong foundation for future cooperation." During his presentation, H.E. Askar Chingizovich Aytmatov said that he welcomes the expansion and deepening of those relations.

Foreign Minister Aytmatov said the past twelve years of bilateral relations between Kyrgyzstan and the United States have been "good and practical," but that security and defense issues had created a "new chapter" in Kyrgyz-U.S. relations that allows for close cooperation on the problems of global terrorism, Central Asian stability, and drug trafficking. Aytmatov pointed to Kyrgyzstan's "significant and real contribution" to operation Enduring Freedom and the war on terrorism by providing the Ganci airbase at Manas for the international coalition "which continues to be the backbone" for troop and force deployment in Afghanistan.

Aytmatov also highlighted U.S. economic assistance and cultural partnerships such as the USAID mission, the Peace Corps, and the American University of Central Asia, which he called "one of the best educational centers in the region." Aytmatov lauded the direct links between Kyrgyzstan and the states of Utah, Wyoming, and Montana, which share some of the republic's topographic and economic traits. He said the cultural exchanges, National Guard training, and emerging trade relations with those states were particularly helpful to Kyrgyzstan.

Aytmatov expressed hope for the "U.S. to play a major role" in helping Kyrgyzstan to address its "foremost challenges" of high unemployment, broad corruption and low levels of foreign investment. He said that American aid and investment could facilitate the success of the Kyrgyz government's new "Comprehensive Development Program" that targets the mining, agriculture, telecommunications, tourism and textile sectors. He called the good governance and anti-corruption programs provided by USAID "mutually beneficial," and noted that the Kyrgyz government had drawn the "necessary lessons" from OSCE criticism of past election practices and recently overhauled its electoral code.

With recent changes and the continuing support of the United States, Foreign Minister Aytmatov believes that Kyrgyzstan will be able to "sustain a stable, democratic state" and halt the "serious and imminent threat" of Muslim fundamentalism to it, by solving the "principle roots" of the problem, which lie in "poverty, social injustice, and unemployment."

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