Thursday, 27 August 2015

Kyrgyzstan denounces cooperation agreement with U.S.

Published in Field Reports

By Arslan Sabyrbekov (19/08/2015 issue of the CACI Analyst)

On July 21, Kyrgyzstan’s Prime Minister Tamar Sariev signed a government decree, unilaterally terminating the 1993 cooperation framework agreement with the U.S. Bishkek’s decision came as a reaction to the State Department’s decision to reward Azimjan Askarov with the Human Rights Defender Award. To Kyrgyz officials, Askarov is an ethnic Uzbek political activist serving a life sentence for organizing and taking part in the mass riots in Southern Kyrgyzstan in June 2010. In its official protest note to Washington, Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs has referred to him as “a symbol of disruption” and described the award as evidence of an attempt to undermine the country’s unity. 

At a ceremony held in Washington, Askarov’s son Sherzod accepted the Human Rights Defender award on behalf of his father from the Deputy Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who has described Askarov as a “tireless defender of human rights, who even behind bars continues to inspire and unite the entire human rights community in Kyrgyzstan, bringing together leaders of all ethnicities and backgrounds to help move their country forward.” As an immediate reaction, Kyrgyzstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs delivered a note of protest to the U.S. charge d’affaires in Bishkek Richard Miles, threatening to abandon the treaty forming the fundamental basis of bilateral relations. The U.S. Embassy commented that Bishkek’s move can “jeopardize aid programs that benefit the citizens of Kyrgyzstan, including programs on combating violent extremism, increasing economic growth and creating jobs, improving the education system, as well as programs to support Kyrgyzstan’s democratic development.” The exchange of notes then moved to a new stage, where the Kyrgyz government unilaterally denounced the agreement. According to local media, the denouncement will enter into effect on August 20.

In a press conference held on July 27, Kyrgyzstan’s President Almazbek Atambayev stated that he fully supports the government’s decision to break the agreement with Washington. “This unfriendly gesture from Washington shall be perceived as an effort of instilling into the minds of our Uzbek compatriots that they have no good living conditions in our country and are always discriminated. This obviously paves the way for separatist sentiments,” stated Atambayev, adding that the international community can form a special commission to re-investigate the case if needed. “For now, Askarov is serving his sentence based on the court’s decision and despite claims of the opposite, I have no influence over his destiny,” Atambayev added. The president has ironically stated that Western democracies always push for an independent judiciary system but have approached him personally on numerous occasions to free Askarov.

Local political analysts are also divided in their opinion over the consequences of this denunciation. Some claim that Bishkek is practicing an immature foreign policy and has nothing to win from this action, referring to neighboring Kazakhstan that despite numerous awards given to its opposition members has never taken unilateral action to downgrade relations with any of the Western countries. For others, Bishkek’s action is yet another effort to please the Kremlin. In the words of renowned Russian political commentator Arkady Dubnov, “To obtain the political support of Moscow, officials in Bishkek are even ready to put into jeopardy all the good humanitarian projects supported by the State Department, an action which is obviously not in line with the interests of ordinary people.”

Others state that Bishkek’s action constitutes an effort to pursue national interests. According to political scientist Mars Sariev, “First, it is no coincidence that Washington gave this award to a controversial human rights defender right before the parliamentary elections. Washington has now placed Bishkek on its list of unfriendly countries and can punish it through various international channels for pursuing a pro-Russian foreign policy.”

The real consequences of Bishkek’s unilateral decision to break the agreement with the U.S. have not yet been thoroughly analyzed from a technical perspective. President Atambayev will visit the U.S. this September to speak at the United Nations General Assembly, a visit that might present an opportunity for further bilateral talks and negotiations. In the meantime, Azimjan Askarov continues to serve his controversial life sentence, despite his deteriorating health condition. 

Image attribution: Wikimedia Commons

Read 10952 times Last modified on Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Visit also





Staff Publications

Op-ed Mamuka Tsereteli & James Jay Carafano, The West Can't Forget What Russia Did To Georgia, 19FortyFive, August 6, 2021. 

Op-ed S. Frederick Starr & Michael Doran, To Avert Disaster in Afghanistan, Look to Central Asia, Wall Street Journal, July 11, 2021.

Op-ed S. Frederick Starr & Eldor Aripov, Can Afghanistan Be Part of An Integrated Central Asia? The National Interest, July 9, 2021.

Op-ed Mamuka Tsereteli and James Jay Carafano, Tsereteli & Carafano: Putin threatens Ukraine – here's the danger and what US, allies should do about it, Fox News, April 13, 2021.

Op-ed S. Enders Wimbish, US withdrawal from Afghanistan spells dangerous geopolitical realignments, The Hill, April 2, 2021.  

Silk Road Paper Svante E. Cornell and S. Frederick Starr, Kazakhstan's Role in International Mediation under First President Nursultan Nazarbayev, November 2020.

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, How Did Armenia So Badly Miscalculate Its War with Azerbaijan? The National Interest, November 14, 2020.

Op-ed Svante E. Cornell, Halting the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan: Russian Peacekeeping is not the Solution Washington Times, October 20, 2020.

Analysis Svante E. Cornell, Can America Stop a Wider War between Armenia and Azerbaijan? The National Interest, October 5, 2020.

Article S. Frederick Starr, America Inches Toward a Serious Central Asia Strategy AFPC Defense Dossier, June 3, 2020.

Silk Road Paper Farrukh Irnazarov and Roman Vakulchuk, Discovering Opportunities in the Pandemic? Four Economic Response Scenarios for Central Asia, July 2020.  

 Book S. Frederick Starr, Eldar Ismailov, Nazim Muzaffarli, Basic Principles for the Rehabilitation of Azerbaijan’s Post-Conflict Territories, 2010.

Can Afghanistan Be Part of An Integrated Central Asia?

The Central Asia-Caucasus Analyst is a biweekly publication of the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute & Silk Road Studies Program, a Joint Transatlantic Research and Policy Center affiliated with the American Foreign Policy Council, Washington DC., and the Institute for Security and Development Policy, Stockholm. For 15 years, the Analyst has brought cutting edge analysis of the region geared toward a practitioner audience.


Sign up for upcoming events, latest news and articles from the CACI Analyst