|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Interview by Mr. Kulinski of Pyramida, Pinara Hotel
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, April 16, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
MR. KULINSKI: Mrs. Albright, thank you for agreeing to answer our questions. Here is my first question: in comparison with other countries of Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan is considered to be "an island of democracy." In your view, what does Kyrgyzstan need to do to keep that image?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: (in Russian) I'd like to say that I'm very glad to be in Kyrgyzstan, and speak Russian. (in English) I think that what has made Kyrgyzstan an island of democracy is that the people here, when you got your, declared your independence, decided that if -- they wanted to have some voice in their government and they moved to have elections and to include oppositions. What is important now is that the next elections in Kyrgyzstan be free and fair and open and transparent. Because the last elections were flawed.
MR. KULINSKI: The USA is one of the main donors to Kyrgyzstan. What is the future of relations between our two countries in this respect?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, in the last eight years the United States has given almost or about a half a billion dollars in assistance to Kyrgyzstan. And the assistance has had to do with open society, for democracy, for humanitarian reasons, for reasons of security. We will continue to assist Kyrgyzstan, because it is in both our national interests to make sure there is not narco-trafficking and terrorism. But we will be watching very carefully to make sure that Kyrgyzstan follows a democratic path. That is also very important, as far as our decision to contribute assistance is concerned.
MR. KULINSKI: Mrs. Albright, on the eve of your visit local press reported that a main condition for your visit was the release of Feliks Kulov. Is that true? What is your position on this issue, please?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: It's true I have been and am very concerned about Mr. Kulov, and believe that it is important for him to be released before his trial and to have a fair and open trial. I said this to President Akayev and that it was important to the United States and to democracy in Kyrgyzstan. Your system as well as ours believes a person is innocent until proven guilty, and the President should not turn his political opponent into a criminal. He should deal with him openly.
MR. KULINSKI: After the elections to the Parliament, the OSCE mission produced a report in which they pointed out some drawbacks from our side. Do you agree with these points and, let us say, faults made during the elections? And what do you think has to be changed that next presidential elections will be conducted in accordance with OSCE standards?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: We agree with the OSCE report on the parliamentary elections and made quite clear to President Akayev that he needs to follow through on the recommendations made by the OSCE. And today the President and I issued a joint statement in which he said he would follow through on what the OSCE recommended, for the presidential elections that have to be open and fair, transparent, and all people should be allowed to voice their views. That is what the OSCE recommends; that is what the United States would like to see.
MR. KULINSKI: Finally, what would you wish for the people of Kyrgyzstan, our country? You are here for the first time, maybe there was something you liked or something you didn't like. What did you like most of all?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well first of all, I think that this is a beautiful country that has a rich people in terms of their intelligence and their desire for having a democracy. I wish the people of Kyrgyzstan the democracy that they want, that they should have the ability to state their views on subjects and that they can be full participants. The United States wants to be friends with Kyrgyzstan. We admire the early beginnings of democracy. And I wish the Kyrgyz people the full fruits of democracy. They deserve it.
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