Press Availability With Kyrgyz Republic Media

Wendy Sherman
Under Secretary for Political Affairs 
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
November 30, 2012

Undersecretary Sherman: Thank you all for being here today. I am very honored and delighted to have been in Kyrgyzstan today and had a series of meetings including with the former President, with the current President, with the Prime Minister, and with members of civil society. Also in these meetings the Foreign Minister, the head of the Defense Council and other officials were present. 

The United States wants to make sure that the spotlight is on the premier democracy in Central Asia. Kyrgyzstan is a young democracy and has made much progress in a very short period of time. All of the leaders with whom I met today expressed their desire to make more progress. Even in the United States which is a democracy over 200 years old, we are still perfecting our democracy. 

The United States also greatly appreciates Kyrgyzstan’s work in partnership with us to bring security and stability and economic development to Afghanistan and to all of Central Asia. I am very grateful for all of the excellent dialogue that I have had today and I return to the United States with many ideas about how to further strengthen our relationship. I’m delighted that Ambassador Spratlen is here to follow up on all that she and I heard today. 

I’m delighted to take your questions. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. What was the outcome of your meeting today with President Atambayev? 

Undersecretary Sherman: I had an excellent conversation with your President. We had a very far-ranging discussion. Everything from the development of this democracy to the economic needs of the country to the partnership with the United States, with our ongoing work together in the region and in the world. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. To what extent United States is committed to the idea of the New Silk Road and the role of Manas Airport in it? 

Undersecretary Sherman: Thank you for raising this question. The United States is very committed to an enduring relationship and presence in Central Asia to work in partnership with Kyrgyzstan and other countries to help with economic development for the people of Central Asia. The New Silk Road is a concept of building networks and trade and development across borders that will benefit everyone. Kyrgyzstan is a very active member of the effort to make this vision real. 

One small example was a Women’s Economic Symposium that was hosted here in Bishkek last year. As a result of that literally well over 100 small and medium young entrepreneurs have gotten underway. 

As far as the transit center at Manas, we are very grateful that Kyrgyzstan has supported an agreement for this transit center to continue to operate through the 2014 length of the agreement. Not only has it been critical to our effort in Afghanistan, but it has also I believe brought benefit to the people of Kyrgyzstan, both in the fees we pay, the jobs it provides, and the acquisition of local products to operate the center. We have helped to build infrastructure that will belong to Kyrgyzstan for years to come. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. I have two questions. The first question is about are the United States planning to donate to Kyrgyzstan part of the military or equipment after withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 2014? 

The second question is are the United States planning to provide military assistance to Kyrgyzstan? And what would that military assistance be? 

Undersecretary Sherman: I think in the first question you’re referring to what we call excess military equipment. No decisions have been made about that and it’s really premature to discuss that, but it is certainly a discussion that we can have with Kyrgyzstan is there is something that’s appropriate and makes sense. When we do donate excess military equipment it is only non-lethal equipment. 

As for military assistance, there is no plan at this time as regards military assistance. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. My question is related to the son of ex-President Bakayev and we know the United States has been pressing criminal charges against him. Are there any developments in the efforts to extradite him from London? 

Undersecretary Sherman: Let me add one thing to the previous question which I wasn’t fully aware of. We do have an Office of Military Cooperation here where we do provide some training and assistance in that regard. So there is an ongoing effort with Kyrgyzstan. 

As to your question regarding Maxim Bakayev, the U.S. Department of Justice has a criminal case against him based on his alleged violation of U.S. laws. This is about a specific violation within our jurisdiction and it is strictly a law enforcement issue. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. Lately we have been having very intensive economic relations between the Kyrgyz Republika and the Russian Federation. With regards to that I would like to ask, several years ago Assistant Secretary Boucher announced the construction of the CASA 1000 project which meant construction of electric power transmission lines in the direction of India and Pakistan. Would you please update us on the development in this area? Because it seems like the regional cooperation has been going horizontal rather than vertical towards those countries, and that in general, could you please give us more information about the economic relations between our countries? Do you envision any large projects coming? 

Undersecretary Sherman: My understanding is that Kyrgyzstan very much supports the CASA 1000 project, and that it is moving forward. We are very glad for it because we think it’s a very good example of north/south cooperation. I think these are exactly the kinds of projects that will be integral to the New Silk Road and to ensuring that there is connectivity throughout the region that allows for increased trade, the development of more jobs, and so that young people are assured of a good and prosperous and stable future. 

And let me add that we welcome everyone’s investment in Central Asia and in Kyrgyzstan because if it helps develop the country and creates a strong and vibrant democracy with a strong middle class, that will be good for the people of Kyrgyzstan, that will be good for the United States of America to have a strong and vibrant democracy here in Central Asia. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. There is some information that Russia is joining the project CASA 1000 and I would like to make sure that is it true that’s what good for the region is good for the United States? Is it the same way, what’s good for Russia is good for the United States? 

Undersecretary Sherman: Well, that’s probably not always the case but my understanding is that Russia has expressed support for the project and we welcome conversation and we welcome participation. To create north/south connectivity for the region is good for everyone. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. I know that prior to your visit our administration President’s office has been saying that there might be negotiations about the transit center. Could you give us a little more specifics about which direction the developments could take? 

A second question is President Atambayev since his presidency has never been in the United States and has he made an intention to or did he share his plans with you? 

Undersecretary Sherman: I think that what I should say about all of this is that we would always welcome of course President Atambayev to come to the United States and just as I’m sure that the President would welcome our President here as well. All presidents have very difficult schedules so we will leave it to them to figure out what they are able to do. 

I know you had another part of your questions -- about the transit center. 

We greatly appreciate that the President and your country have made a commitment to the transit center to 2014. We will work out together what makes sense into the future. Right now that’s hypothetical. I’m sure that we will all come to an agreement that works first and foremost for Kyrgyzstan. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. Repeating the question about Maxim Bakayev. Will the United States insist on Maxim Bakayev’s extradition? 

Undersecretary Sherman: We have made a request for his extradition. This is a long process. We do have an extradition with the United Kingdom. If we do indeed, he does arrive in the United States at some point he will of course go through our judicial system with all of our appeals. It will also take some time. So there is a long path ahead here, but as I said, we have alleged concerns. This is a Department of Justice matter about a specific violation and we will be following through as we do in our justice system. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. Did you discuss anything specific with the Secretary of Security Council? 

Undersecretary Sherman: No. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. It’s more for like a personal question. We’ve seen many times how the way Richard Blake travels -- 

Undersecretary Sherman: Robert. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. -- as an economy class passenger. He picks up his luggage himself in a very democratic manner. I wanted to check whether you follow the same standards? And in general, are there any VIP [inaudible] for the U.S. officials? 

Undersecretary Sherman: We all work very very hard as do I think diplomats in every single country. I am fortunate as an Undersecretary I can get a business class seat. Particularly because when I’m going to walk into a meeting. If I’m on a short distance, however, in the United States, I fly economy class as well. Any place in the United States I fly economy class. So when I’m going on a long distance trip and I have to get off an airplane and walk right into a meeting, then I can fly business class because of my rank. But yes, I carry my own bags. I never check bags because I don’t want them to get lost on an airplane. And for those of you who are women, I always, even if I’m traveling for two weeks, I only take a carry-on suitcase because I’m going to probably be in a different country every single day and nobody’s going to know what I’m going to wear. So I will get bored with my clothes, but I’ll still have only a carry-on suitcase. That’s just something we do. 

The other thing is, we work all of the time. On this particular trip I left on a Saturday, I will return on a Saturday. So most of the time my weekends are spent on airplanes. In this one week I’ve been in four countries and five cities in one week. 

Media: [Through the Interpreter]. What was the reason for Blake’s [inaudible]? 

Undersecretary Sherman: My understanding is that your Foreign Minister had a scheduling conflict with the Organization of Islamic Conference which is certainly a very appropriate reason to reschedule the ABDs. I don’t, there’s no issue here whatsoever. We all have very demanding schedules. We are all juggling our schedules all of the time. And we certainly understand and we have absolutely no question whatsoever that it will be rescheduled and we will continue our very close annual bilateral consultations. Thank you.