Press conference by President of Kyrgyzstan
Kyrgyzstan’s outgoing President this afternoon touted the Central Asian country’s orderly presidential elections last month as the start of an era marked by peaceful, transparent transitions of power, stability and growth.
“We have totally changed the code of behaviour in my country,” Roza Otunbayeva, interim Kyrgyz President since April 2010, said during a Headquarters news conference. “We hope that this will be the way for years to come and that people will follow the rules.”
On 1 December, businessman and former Prime Minister Almazbek Atambayev, who emerged as the winner of election polls held 30 October, would take office, putting an end to years of autocratic rule and two coups that forced out two Presidents in the last five years, she said.
Ms. Otunbayeva expressed confidence that through power-sharing with opposition political parties, economic transparency and a system of checks of balances, the impoverished, mainly Muslim nation of some 5 million people would move forward.
She acknowledged that in the past 18 months, Kyrgyzstan had “gone through a difficult period”. In June 2010, deadly clashes between ethnic Kyrgyz and ethnic Uzbeks killed hundreds of people and displaced tens of thousands.
But since she began running the country in April last year, Kyrgyz officials had introduced a constitution by referendum, conducted free, fair and transparent elections that had officially declared the country a parliamentary republic, and formed a governing coalition, she said. The economy had expanded a brisk 9 per cent in the past nine months.
She noted that Vladimir Putin, Prime Minister of the Russian Federation, had recently said that the Arab Spring had started in Kyrgyzstan.
Asked what advice she would give to transitional Governments in Arab nations based on Kyrgyzstan’s experience as a former Soviet republic, she stressed the importance of strong, united political parties and support for civil society and the media.
Asked how Kyrgyzstan was developing economically, she said the country was working closely with international financial institutions and regional banks. It also relied on bilateral aid, particularly from the Russian Federation, to strengthen its fragile borders and bolster security. As a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, Kyrgyzstan was expanding trade and economic ties with China.
Regarding the country’s high economic growth rate, she said it was fuelled largely by mining and energy sector development. Through a joint venture with the Canadian mining firm, Centerra Gold, among others, Kyrgyzstan aimed to boost annual gold production from 20 tonnes to 30 tonnes.
As to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s trip to Kyrgyzstan in February, she said that visit had been “very fruitful” and that his political and economic support for Kyrgyzstan was badly needed and timely. She lauded Mr. Erdoğan’s recent travel to and support for other Muslim nations as “remarkable and important” for the wider global community.
Asked if she had done enough during her term to end the ethnic violence that had gripped the country in 2010, and to hold the perpetrators to account, she said that her short term had only given her enough time to perform crisis management and to encourage the use of peacebuilding funds. Nevertheless, she had been able to set up a national commission and an Independent International Commission of Inquiry to investigate and report on the matter. The Government was now working to implement the recommendations of the latter body. The Parliamentary Commission on Ethnic Violence had also issued a relevant report.
Moving forward, reconciliation between the Kyrgyz and Uzbek communities was vital, as was integrating Uzbeks into the military and senior Government posts, she said. Her successor must also instil the rule of law and reform the court system in line with global standards.
Asked if she supported the United States military’s continued use of Manas airbase as a main hub for supplies to its forces in Afghanistan after its agreement with the Government of Kyrgyzstan expired in 2014, she said the incoming President had stated his desire to convert the base into a civilian airport after 2014. She stressed the importance of development in Afghanistan, but declined to comment further on the matter.
As to whether Kyrgyzstan’s recent attempt to win a non-permanent seat on the Security Council had soured its relations with Pakistan, its competitor, she said her country had declared its aspiration for a seat as far back as 1997. “We have a right to do this,” she said, and expressed hope that the move had not offended Pakistan, which had won the bid.
For information media • not an official record