Remarks at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Robert O. Blake, Jr.
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs
Washington, DC
March 7, 2011

Remarks as prepared

It’s a pleasure to be invited back to the Carnegie Endowment. I want to thank Ambassador James Collins and Martha Brill Olcott for arranging this special occasion. I have the distinct honor to introduce a head of state whose extraordinary courage and achievements are about to be honored tomorrow by Secretary of State Clinton.

Americans have admired President Roza Otunbayeva and appreciated her friendship since she was Ambassador to the United States and also Kyrgyzstan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.

But it is her exemplary leadership of Kyrgyzstan through the tumultuous transition of the past year that helped hold her country together and set Kyrgyzstan on a democratic path that have cemented President Otunbayeva’s reputation on the world stage.

Nine months ago, many worried whether Kyrgyzstan would be in a position to hold peaceful, competitive elections and accomplish a change of government by democratic means and without violence.

President Otunbayeva, however, did not waver from that vision. Today, Kyrgyzstan leads Central Asia with a new constitution and a new government chosen by its citizens, and is moving to make sure government is increasingly responsive to its citizens. It is, as Secretary Clinton recognized in Bishkek last December, nothing less than a bold endeavor by the people of Kyrgyzstan and their leaders to reinvent democratic governance.

Secretary Clinton also affirmed that democracy is a journey, not a destination. All of us engaged with Kyrgyzstan know very well that a long list of challenges remains, and no one appreciates that better than President Otunbayeva.

Rather than rest on her laurels with the accomplishments of last year, she has focused in 2011 on several strategic goals, perhaps the most challenging of which is strengthening and upholding the rule of law throughout government and society. In doing so, she has made clear her commitment not just to the security but to the rights of all her people.

The United States will continue to fully support Kyrgyzstan in that effort. We do so, because we understand that bolstering rule of law helps build a strong democracy and a partnership between the government and those they govern.

We do so, because the rule of law is fundamental not just to good governance, but also to national reconciliation, justice, respect for human rights, and peace. The United States and Kyrgyzstan share interests as partners seeking a stable, secure region, not just in support of international efforts in Afghanistan, but also rooted in the quality of life of ordinary people throughout Central Asia. The work will not be easy, but our partnership will endure.

On behalf of the U.S. Department of State and our gracious hosts today, the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, please join me in extending a hearty welcome to a leader of vision and courage, the President of the Kyrgyz Republic, Roza Otunbayeva.