Remarks With President Otunbayeva After Their Meeting

Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
Ala-Archa State Residence
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
December 2, 2010

Date: 12/02/2010 Description: Secretary Clinton and Kyrgyz President Roza Otunbayeva at the Ala Archa Presidential Residence Press Conference in the Kyrgyz Republic. - State Dept Image

PRESIDENT OTUNBAYEVA: (Via interpreter.) Dear journalists, I have just accomplished our negotiations with the State Secretary of the U.S.A., Madam Hillary Clinton. Our delegation raised a number of very important issues. (Inaudible) and I want to say about it once again here, we’re sincerely – we would like to sincerely thank the U.S.A. for timely assistance provided by the U.S.A. during the last six months of our very difficult life. (Inaudible) that during all the years of our independence the U.S.A. have been so much cooperative and supportive to us in our economic and political development and the development of the democracy. Kyrgyzstan is famous today – is that could happen thanks to investments of the U.S.A. During the last six months is where dramatic, difficult for Kyrgyzstan and practically every month we had certain events, referendum, elections (inaudible) support, understanding, and assistance by the U.S.A. The same today. This day is very critical – important for us because we’re forming the new cabinet and the visit of Madam Clinton coincided with this event where (inaudible) you here with the entire American delegation and we’re ready to develop our relations in the future.

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much, Madam President. I am delighted to be here, once again, and particularly at this propitious time in the history of your country. I would like to thank you for the very warm welcome, and I appreciate the members of the press who are here; we value the role that the media plays in healthy democracies. And we are particularly pleased about the upcoming announcement of a new government. It is essential that this new government is put into office, and begins working with the president to tackle the challenges that confront Kyrgyzstan.

We had a very productive meeting, discussing a broad range of issues, and I expressed to the President the admiration that the United States feels for the difficult road that Kyrgyzstan has decided to walk. This is a bold endeavor that the people of this country have undertaken, reinventing its democratic governance with a strong parliament designed to represent the full diversity of the people and regions in Kyrgyzstan. And we salute the resolve that the President and the people showed in holding these elections, which were widely applauded as being free, fair, and legitimate. Countries with a much longer history of elections have not achieved the high quality of election that was held here, in Kyrgyzstan. And we congratulate you for that, Madam President.

We are well aware that there are many difficulties and tensions within the country that will have to be addressed. But it's important to recognize, as the United States has learned over our history as a democracy, that democracy is not a destination; you have to continue to improve it and perfect it. It is a road that people decide to travel together. And we are encouraged to see the coalition-building going on inside your parliament to arrive at a government that will have an opposition. There are many who say parliamentary democracy, true parliamentary democracy, cannot work in Central Asia, or in many other places in the world. We reject that, and we think Kyrgyzstan is proving that it can.

I know from my own decades spent in politics that elections are actually not the hardest part of democracy, although they sometimes feel like that for those who run and those who win and those who lose. Because when elections end, the challenges of democratic leadership begin. It is especially important that a constitutional democracy grow and thrive here in Kyrgyzstan, because no form of government is better suited to handling the challenges posed by diverse ethnic or religious groups. Constitutional democracy creates a forum where people start from the premise that certain principles must be upheld by the rule of law. And those principles serve as guardrails. They govern the way that people from different backgrounds, traditions, and customs, can discuss, debate, and work together to form a nation in which all citizens are entitled to the same rights. In particular, we hope that the authorities ensure that the trials of those held responsible for the ethnic violence in June, and of former government officials and members of the security forces, proceed in accordance with the full due process guaranteed under Kyrgyz law.

This is a country that has been through a great deal of change and upheaval. And the violence of this past June was a terrible tragedy. In fact, the loss of life during this year -- all of the victims and their families have our sympathy, and I send condolences to all those who lost loved ones and friends. The elections, however, show that the people of Kyrgyzstan want to resolve disputes peacefully through politics, not violence.

America will stand with the government and people of Kyrgyzstan as you work to deliver economic results, and national reconciliation, and safeguard the basic rights and freedoms for people here. The president and I spoke about our shared interests in a stable region, and a stable Afghanistan. Both the United States and Kyrgyzstan will be more secure if we can help the Afghan people build a peaceful, stable country free of violent extremism and those who promote it.

I thank the President for Kyrgyzstan's support for the transit center at Manas, which is making a very important contribution to the international effort to stabilize Afghanistan and provide regional security. Most coalition troops are transported to Afghanistan through Manas, and we are very grateful to your nation for hosting that.

Finally, one of my priorities at every step on my trip to Central Asia -- or on any trip -- as we discussed at the OSCE Summit in Astana, is that democracy, human rights, and vibrant civil society help assure stable, prosperous countries. A broad partnership between governments and the people whom they govern is essential to assist in providing that strong, democratic institutional support.

I am looking forward later this afternoon to going to the beautiful opera house to discuss with students and representatives of civil society the challenges and opportunities that they see here in Kyrgyzstan.

And I was very pleased to tell the President that the United States will host a Central Asia and Afghanistan women's empowerment conference here in Bishkek in May. We will recognize the vital role that women in Kyrgyzstan play, not only from your president, but to women entrepreneurs, women journalists, women academics, and professionals from all walks of life. And we think that the example here in Kyrgyzstan will be very helpful to women from Afghanistan and elsewhere in Central Asia.

We are inspired by what the men and women of the Kyrgyz Republic have accomplished, and we appreciate the partnership that you have with the United States. And, Madam President, I want to assure you that the United States will continue to work with you, and we will continue to invest in this future that you are trying to build for yourselves. Thank you.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) Good afternoon, Madam Clinton. Please, we would like to hear your comments about the priorities of Obama’s office in Central Asia. In his presentation on your assistance, (inaudible) when he talked to the subcommittee on Asian countries, he articulated the priorities and I don’t know why that the human rights, market development, and efficient government development were not the priorities; they were in the second place. Don’t you think the priority of supporting this situation and regulation of this situation in Afghanistan witnesses – speaks for pragmatism of the U.S.A., which does not provide more support to Central Asian countries, our region?

SECRETARY CLINTON: First, let me say that we have a comprehensive agenda with a set of priorities that are hard to rank one above the other, because they all go together. For example, regional security and stability is a necessary foundation for the development of democracy and human rights. And yet, we have learned from long experience that you are more likely to have lasting stability and security if democracy and human rights are given the support that they deserve.

So, when we talk about the partnership that the United States has with Central Asia, we look across a broad agenda where we are working in many different ways. Take our aid for Kyrgyzstan. We are working to support economic development. We are working to support the reform of the security forces, so that they are able to provide the stability that the people deserve. We are working to help improve the judicial system and the rule of law. We are working to help integrate the region more. And, of course, we believe that creating a stable situation in Afghanistan will prevent the export of terrorism to other countries in the region.

So, all of that fits together. And so our listing of priorities means, really, that we are working on all of them to the best of our ability simultaneously, because we think they are all connected.

QUESTION: Thank you, thank you. Madam Secretary, the recent elections have strengthened the hand of parties skeptical of the Manas transit center. Why has the United States risked putting the base's future in jeopardy by defying the clear and persistent calls by Kyrgyz leaders for the Pentagon to stop dealing with the fuel contractors Mina and Red Star? And did the President give you any evidence to back up her accusations of corruption?

And for Madam President, you had told me in September that the government could collect $50 million more a year under a new arrangement. Did the Secretary offer to mollify your concerns, such as increasing the rent on the base, or anything else? And do you anticipate the base agreement to continue beyond the end of the NATO mission in 2014?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Glenn, first, let me say that, of course, the President and I discussed that. It's an important issue in our bilateral relationship. We are committed to transparency. The fuel contract was a result of an open bidding process, but we recognize that the government of Kyrgyzstan is conducting its own investigation into the fuel company. That is its perfect right. And that investigation is not completed. We will, of course, receive the results of any investigation that is conducted by the government.

At the same time, we are working on a partnership to help establish a Kyrgyz entity that can take over part of the base contract. This is something we discussed at some length, because, although it is primarily the responsibility of the Department of Defense, the State Department will work closely with the Defense Department to expedite the process of helping to create an organization that meets all of the legal standards that you know are in the law of the United States, so that this new entity can be able to compete for and receive a part of this base contract for fuel.

Manas reflects the shared cooperation that both of our governments have developed in order to meet the challenges posed by Afghanistan. Of course, the primary challenge in Afghanistan is to the government and people of Afghanistan, the threat posed by terrorists who are, unfortunately, drawn from many different nationalities and ethnic backgrounds who have chosen to exercise their violent extremism inside Afghanistan. But they are by no means limited to Afghanistan. In fact, the President and I also discussed the threat of terrorism in the broader Central Asian region, which we take very seriously.

So, Manas is an important critical element of our efforts in the international community, which now consists of 49 nations -- including, just recently, Kazakhstan, which has joined the international coalition for the efforts in Afghanistan -- and we greatly appreciate the support that the government and people of Kyrgyzstan have given to the efforts in Manas. And we recognize and appreciate also the concerns that the government has raised, and we continue to work together to address them.

PRESIDENT OTUNBAYEVA: (Via interpreter.) We met before and you were correct to remind me now that we had the conversation about supply of gasoline – gas to the Manas Transit Center. I can only tell you that the investigation carried out by the general prosecutor’s office is going on. Unfortunately, we were so busy during the entire summer with investigation of the events in the South and now we’ve been dealing with this issue very, very comprehensively. After the end of the investigation, we will make it public.

As to the Manas Air Base till 2014 as you ask your question, this question, this issue was not discussed by us directly today, because it will be the prerogative of the future government. All these issues related to our foreign relations will be dealt by the new covenant. But definitely, I would like to say – to highlight any special role of the Manas Air Base in combating terrorism and the role Kyrgyzstan – or contribution made by Kyrgyzstan to this fight. We really believe that the threat of terrorism and especially spring of the next year 2011 will be not easy for us. We think that theater of actions will move towards the north of Afghanistan and the border with Tajikistan and between (inaudible) and Afghanistan and (inaudible) create a lot of concern. And now the challenge is to close, to block completely and tightly and we’ve been working at this issue now.

If you look at the issues related to operation of the transit center comprehensively, it has been operating and this is the matter of our contribution to combating terrorism and I really believe that with development of events in Afghanistan and I was informed that recent meeting in Lisbon discussed the issues of Afghanistan seriously. And this proves the fact that since the next year, 2011, more and more authorities of power will be delegated to local governments and armed forces and in 2014 this operation will be accomplished.

In Central Asia we want peace constant. We want full destruction of terrorism. Therefore, our – this small contribution will be appreciated by the world community as an important contribution.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) (Inaudible.) I had a question to Madam Clinton. As far as we know from the website of the Millennium Threshold Account Program Corporation, in December the meeting of the boards of MSAP will take place and it will discuss the issue of promoting countries and members of the threshold program. Did you discuss this issue at the meeting with the president of Kyrgyzstan and what is the assessment of the corporation for the year 2010?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you. Yes, we did discuss the Millennium Challenge Corporation, and Kyrgyzstan's interest in becoming eligible for a threshold grant. I am very encouraging of that, because I would like to see Kyrgyzstan qualify. There are certain standards that have to be met. And in many of those, Kyrgyzstan already qualifies. In two areas there does have to be some additional work: in the anti-corruption area, in making sure that there are appropriate laws and enforcement mechanisms to deal with the challenge of corruption; and secondly, in the rule of law, where, obviously, we look at a country's ability to provide counsel for those accused of crimes, an independent judiciary, and equal access by all citizens to the law.

But I am very encouraged by the commitment that I know that the President -- and I expect the new government -- to make to moving forward in those areas. Whether the application is considered in December or at a later meeting, I don't know at this point. But I would like to see Kyrgyzstan qualify and receive support from the Millennium Challenge Corporation in the future.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, it's a question for you. After you leave Kyrgyzstan, you are heading to Uzbekistan, a country that is cited by the State Department as a country of particular concern when it comes to religious freedoms, a country that the UN says uses torture systematically.

I was wondering. To what extent are you willing to push the agenda of human rights if it risks endangering what the United States is probably most concerned about, and that is the continued -- continuing to secure supply routes for troops in Afghanistan? I understand that you have different -- you have several priorities, you try to align them all, as you just mentioned to the Kyrgyz journalist. But how much are you willing to push, if it endangers your other priorities?

SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, Kim, we always push democracy and human rights, because we think that it's not only representative of values that should be embraced by all people, and that every individual is entitled to their freedom and protection from abuse by their government, but also because we think that democracy and human rights are the best way to stabilize and sustain strong societies over time. So we will certainly raise that, as we always have.

Sometimes countries are willing to work with us to improve their human rights profile, and to support democratic development, and sometimes it's a harder case to make. I am well aware of the many challenges existing in Uzbekistan. I am looking forward to meeting with President Karimov to discuss the full range of issues. And, of course, at the same time, we will be discussing the important role that Uzbekistan plays in providing a route into Afghanistan for supplies and equipment going to support the international forces.

So, those items will all be a matter of discussion when I meet with the President later today. Thank you.

PRN: 2010/T36-6