|Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright
Press Availability, Pinara Hotel
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, April 16, 2000
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Good afternoon, everybody. This is my first visit to Bishkek, and I had what I consider very productive consultations with PresidentAkayev this morning and with representatives of political parties and NGOs earlier this afternoon. Later today, I'll attend a roundtable at the American
University in Kyrgyzstan.
Today President Akayev and I agreed on a Joint Statement which focuses on the importance of building strong democratic institutions and enhancing regional security.
We reviewed the threats posed by terrorism and illicit trafficking in arms and narcotics, and I informed the President that we will be making more money available to enhance Kyrgyzstan's ability to respond to these threats.
We agreed that the first U.S.-Kyrgyzstan Defense Bilateral Working Group will meet in Bishkek next month to examine further ways to expand our defense relationship through NATO's Partnership for Peace.
And I invited Kyrgyzstan to send a delegation to a counter-terrorism conference for the states of Central Asia, which the State Department will host inWashington in June.
Over the long run, the best guarantee of Kyrgyzstan's security is democracy. It is in part because we support Kyrgyzstan's desire for stability and prosperity that we support democratic development.
As a participant in the OSCE, Kyrgyzstan has taken on fundamental commitments concerning respect for democratic institutions.
So I was pleased that in our Joint Statement today President Akayev pledged to follow the OSCE's electoral recommendations for addressing this year's flawed parliamentary elections. That would lay the groundwork for free and fair presidential elections later this year.
This morning, I urged President Akayev to arrange for Feliks Kulov's release pending completion of the criminal investigation against him, in accordance with Kyrgyz law and international standards of due process.
During my consultations this afternoon with NGO representatives and political leaders from outside the government, I announced that the United States will be providing grants to civic groups to help them inform voters and monitor the fall presidential elections.
And during the roundtable meeting at the American University in Kyrgyzstan, I will congratulate the students, faculty and staff for their outstanding educational accomplishments and listen to what Kyrgyzstan's next generation of leaders has to say.
Thank you very much. I'm ready to answer your questions.
QUESTION: Madame Secretary, as you said, you came here with an armful of concerns about the state of democracy in Kyrgyzstan now and in the statement that he made earlier, President Akayev seemed to talk a good game. He made the right noises it seemed. But apparently he's made these kinds of statements before and I'm just wondering how much stock you put in them and what the consequences would be if in fact these recommendations of the OSCE are not followed through on?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I spent quite a lot of time in this morning's meeting with President Akayev talking about the importance of democracy to Kyrgyzstan and the fact that the most stable societies are democratic societies and that the essential part for Kyrgyzstan at this moment of transition is in fact to follow through with the kinds of democratic undertakings that are a part of the OSCE process and part of what we look for in our friends and partners. I think that in many ways Kyrgyzstan is at a crossroads in terms of the direction it can go in. It had a good start. It's run into some problems as far as its dedication to democracy because of the last elections. I think that the way that the next ones are carried out will determine whether it will follow a path towards democracy and stability or one that leads to chaotic instability. I would hope very much that President Akayev would hold to what he told me that he would because ultimately the future of his country really depends on it. We will be watching and waiting and working through the OSCE process and obviously our Embassy here to monitor how he carries out what he told me that he would.
QUESTION: (in Russian) Honorable Secretary, I would like to ask you a question. After the Parliamentary elections, do you think that American aid will be continued? Because we heard that after these elections you don't want a non-democratic situation and so American aid would be restricted.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that what we have done in the last eight years, we have provided about half a billion dollars worth of assistance to Kyrgyzstan for a variety of reasons. Obviously we believe that it should be a democratic market system. Also because this region is one that is very important to all of us. We're very concerned about narco-trafficking, terrorism, various forms of instability and I think having a democratic Kyrgyzstan that operates in cooperation with its neighbors and has secure borders is important to the United States. So I spoke also to the President and I made clear our support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Kyrgyzstan. I also, as I've just said, we're giving them some additional assistance. Our concern here is that President Akayev take his country in a democratic direction and we will be watching very carefully and obviously our assistance will be determined by our national interests and our interest in seeing this as a stable democracy.
QUESTION: (in Russian) Honorable Secretary, tell me please, if I understood the translation correctly, you said that you and President Akayev discussed whether one of the leaders of the opposition, Feliks Kulov, will be released pending completion of the investigation. But this investigation was completed last Thursday and now the results of the investigation are being reviewed. Please comment again, in as much detail as possible, on your conversation with the President of Kyrgyzstan.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I did in fact speak to President Akayev about Mr. Kulov and said that it was very important that he be treated fairly and that it was a huge mistake to turn ones political opponents into people that are viewed in a criminal light and that democracy requires the possibility of opponents to state their views freely and not be suspect as a result of that. President Akayev took on board what I said and I think fully understood that this was very important to the United States and to our relationship and I think that we again, as I said, we will be watching this very closely. I am sure that President Akayev understood the strength of my views on this subject.
QUESTION: (in Russian) The newspaper "Res-Publika" Ilyas Tokombayev. Tell me please, we will not have freedom of speech in Kyrgyzstan until the principle of Sullivan is implemented. The precedent of a 20000 soms[penalty] against "Res-Publika" was from the side of power. What do you think, does the basic principle of democracy [freedom of speech] exist in Kyrgyzstan or not?
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all I think that we all understand the difficulties of a transition process from a communist society to a democratic society. In my discussions both with President Akayev and with the opposition leaders and NGOs we spoke about the fact that people often thought that that transition would be quicker and easier not only in Kyrgyzstan but in other of the former Soviet republics. And what one judges a transition on is the possibility of and the carrying out of free elections, an independent judiciary and a press that is able to state its views, and the respect for an opposition party. I was one of the founders of an American organization called the National Democratic Institute, which I think everybody knows from being here, and we talked about ten years ago what was it that constituted democracy. It isn't just elections because there were elections in communist countries before; 99% of the people voted. But what is necessary is that there be a second election, that the opposition party be respected, that there be freedom of the press and an independent judiciary. Those are the major components that are necessary for a functioning democracy. I believe that President Akayev knows that. The opposition leaders certainly do.
QUESTION: Let me greet you. I am so excited. I represent one and a half million Kyrgyz people. My NGO defends the interests of teenagers from the ages of 16 to 22 years of age. I can speak about principles of democracy in Kyrgyzstan. I don't understand today the following moment: Why did you, Madam Secretary, have a meeting just with NGOs which have . . . Why didn't you meet just with opposition NGOs and not with one NGO which deals with real work in Kyrgyzstan? This is the question that interests me. What principles do you use to discuss democracy in Kyrgyzstan? What principles do you use for evaluation? I can say that during today's meeting with you?I'm a representative of an NGO, I'm not a representative of the press, let me say . . .do the NGOs have to follow Kyrgyz laws or don't they? Please answer my question.
SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: First of all I met with the NGOs that were invited and chosen and I presume that was done on a fair basis. I think that it's very important to have the ability to hear the views of everyone. I believe that functioning democracies need functioning NGOs. There are increasing numbers of NGOs that are part of our entire system. You clearly are not happy. Sorry if you were not invited and I'm very glad that you had a chance to talk here.
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