Joint Press Availability With Kyrgyz Foreign Minister Erlan Abdyldaev

John Kerry
Secretary of State
Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan
October 31, 2015

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDAEV: (Via interpreter) Good evening, dear representatives of mass media. Negotiations between the State Secretary, Mr. John Kerry, with the president have finished. And before that we had bilateral negotiations. Immediately I would like to give the floor to our guest, Mr. Secretary of State of U.S., Mr. John Kerry, please.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, Mr. Foreign Minister Erlan, my friend, I thank you very much for your very, very generous welcome, to all of your delegations and President Atambayev. And it’s a pleasure for me to be here, and I would say to the people of Kyrgyzstan that I wish I was able to stay longer. I know what a beautiful country this is. But this is whetting my appetite, and hopefully I can return before too long.

This is my first visit to Bishkek, and it is the first visit by a Secretary of State to all five Central Asian countries at the same time. So I’m very much looking forward to a memorable visit. And we will meet as a group of foreign ministers tomorrow, and I’m very much looking to that too.

We had productive and very candid discussions today. And to begin with, I want to congratulate President Atambayev and the people of the Kyrgyz Republic for holding very successful parliamentary elections. The results are a milestone in the measurement of this nation’s journey towards a democracy that is inclusive and representative of all citizens. And the president, the central election commission, and civil society leaders all deserve credit for their commitment to a competitive and transparent election process.

Nearly 24 years ago, the United States recognized the sovereignty of the Kyrgyz Republic, newly independent from the former Soviet Union. On December 25th, 1991, President George H. W. Bush said, “This is a day of great hope for all Americans. Our enemies have become our partners, dedicated to building democratic, civil societies. They ask for our support, and we will give it to them.” For more than two decades, America has been working to make good on that promise. And I was proud this morning to dedicate the new U.S. embassy building, which is a reflection of our enduring friendship and the Kyrgyz Republic and its people’s connection to the United States.

In our discussions today, the foreign minister and I agreed that our political, economic, and cultural partnerships are expanding in ways that benefit not only our countries, but people throughout the region, but also that we can do more. And we talked about sort of laying out a roadmap in order to do that. We also reviewed regional security issues, including Afghanistan, and the necessity of working together to address the challenge of climate change.

Later today I will have the privilege of speaking at the American University of Central Asia. And there I will emphasize America’s commitment – excuse me – to a relationship with this country and the region that is based on mutual interests and mutual respect. It’s a sign of that commitment that we are investing in vocational training for Afghan and Tajik students. It’s why we’re organizing trade delegations in Central Asia, Islamabad, Kabul, and elsewhere in order to improve and open up business opportunities and expand our business-to-business ties. It’s also why we’re working together on biodiversity conservation, including the recent success in placing a radio collar on a female snow leopard – a first for this country. And it’s why we’re helping women entrepreneurs through our Central Asia and Afghanistan Women’s Economic Symposium.

I was very grateful for the opportunity earlier today to meet with a number of women business owners and was extremely impressed by the progress and growth of their businesses, and their commitment to providing jobs for the people of the Kyrgyz Republic.

On trade and investment, our countries are working together on numerous regional initiatives, including what is known as the CASA-1000 electricity transmission line. I’m very pleased that Foreign Minister Abdyldaev will participate in our C5+1 forum in Samarkand tomorrow. And I hope that the Heart of Asia conference in Islamabad this December we will further consider ways in which we can make progress on a comprehensive regional economic agenda. The foreign minister and I also discussed the situation in Afghanistan, where the Kyrgyz Republic has long played a vital role, including by welcoming hundreds of young Afghans to study at AUCA.

We’re also working together, as I mentioned a moment ago, to tackle climate change. Climate change is a challenge for every nation in the world. And we will meet soon in Paris in order to try to achieve a global agreement. But we discussed the efforts today to address glacier melting, the thawing of our glaciers from the Tien Shan mountains. And we also agreed to coordinate closely as countries come together when we do meet in Paris in order to try to be successful in reaching an agreement.

In closing, let me again thank our hosts for a very candid and productive discussion today. President Obama and our entire Administration are strongly committed to the United States-Kyrgyz relationship, based on trust, equality, and mutual respect. And I believe our talks today have helped to give us a platform for further progress, and for what I believe can be a very productive next few months and on into 2016. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDAEV: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much, dear Mr. Secretary of State. Dear representatives of mass media, ladies and gentlemen, today’s negotiations and meeting with Mr. Kerry with the President Atambayev were devoted to the important issues of bilateral cooperation and multilateral cooperation in between Kyrgyzstan and the U.S. They shared opinions on the issues of regional and international topics which represent mutual interest.

Before my speech, I would like to thank all the member states of UN which just three days ago at the jubilee session of the General Assembly of UN, voted for selecting – electing Kyrgyzstan in the Council on Human Rights for the years 2016-18. This is a confirmation of high appreciation by international community of the positive changes taking place recently in our country on the way of constructing, building democratic, open, and inclusive society.

I would like to especially highlight political leaders of the country. All the political and public forces and movements have been working hard to build a model of relationships which would be attractive for all people of Kyrgyzstan. This month has become – has been rich with events. On the 4th of October, elections to the parliament, according to the evaluation of numerous international observers from more than 60 countries, appear to be the most clean, honest, and transparent; applied for the first time modern technologies of accounting the vote; gave the chance, real equal chances to all the political parties. And the voters were able to freely enforce their constitutional rights – right without pressure. Therefore we would like to thank all the international observers, including American ones, for high appreciation and a good evaluation of the parliamentary elections. This is what, Mr. Kerry, you have just mentioned about.

During the recent years, dynamics of bilateral relations has changed. Therefore we’d like to highlight the – it’s part of certain problems which took place in the middle of 2000s. We value our relationships with U.S. which have their own history and own content. Based on our common values, we have all the grounds for achieving more progress. It’s natural that these relations should coincide with our relations with our other regional and international partners.

Now, based on the positive experience accumulated during these years, it’s necessary to develop the optimal relationships between Kyrgyzstan and U.S. based on a quality mutual understanding and taking each other’s interest. This is what was also mentioned by the Secretary.

I would like you to know that the next 2016 will rejuvenate especially now our relations. We delay that 25 years (inaudible) diplomatic relationships is a good course for a very thorough inventory of what we have done. I think that this visit of Mr. John Kerry and its outcomes will open a new chapter in our bilateral relationships and will enable to the utmost to use unused enriched capacity of cooperation, a cooperation on the next scope of issues – cultural, (inaudible), economic, and collaboration within regional and international security and combating international terrorism. I would like to focus, therefore, on development of bilateral roadmap so that we openly and honestly could discuss thoroughly the agenda of our relationships.

I’m happy to note that we’ve been strengthening a strong civil society. This is very important in the environment of our multiethnic communities, and because taking into consideration opinions of the – all the people is an important condition for sustainable development of the state. Public opinion in our country affects considerably the decisions to be made on internal and foreign policy. The power of our poly-ethnic society is in strengthening it into ethnic harmony, permanent support of dialogue, and collaboration between all groups and players of the society.

Within this context, I would like to highlight that without dynamic, well-developed, and open community, you can hardly achieve sustainability in this society. It’s the time to go ahead and start concretely working in the economic area in our bilateral relationships to implement the infrastructural and energy projects which are important not only for Kyrgyzstan itself, but it’s very important by the – for the entire Central Asian region. And for centuries we’ve been living between our fraternal nations for – in peace and (inaudible). And (inaudible) by Mr. Kerry will also be supported by (inaudible) we’ll be happy to continue cooperation with U.S. Our countries are natural partners in developing, strengthening, and promoting democratic values and ideals. Kyrgyzstan will now go (inaudible) from the democratic way (inaudible) and building a truly free society in spite of the difficulties and impediments.

We believe that based on a good will, mutual respect, and equality, we can resolve the most difficult issues.

In summarizing our joint work, I believe that the negotiations have been useful and will be a turning point in the history of our Kyrgyz-American relationships. Finally, I would like to highlight the striving of our countries to develop close relationships in all areas to strengthen friendly relationships is interest of our two nations. Thank you for your attention.

Dear representatives of the media, now let’s start with the questions.

SECRETARY KERRY: Before we ask the question, I was just sitting here thinking about – I wanted to – I know my fellow minister would join me in this. We learned today about the loss of an airliner flying – Russian plane flying from Egypt, Sharm el-Sheikh, to St. Petersburg, I think 224 people aboard. And we simply want to extend our condolences to Russia and to all of the families. We don’t know any details about it, but obviously, the initial reports represent a tremendous tragedy and loss. And we extend our sympathies to the families and all those concerned.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDAEV: (Via interpreter) I also would like to express sympathy. I know that Mr. Atambayev already sent a message to Mr. Putin. I agree this is a big tragedy.

So if you don’t mind, we will continue our press conference. Going directly to questions and answer. But then again, just remind you please two questions from each party due to the agenda of Mr. Kerry’s very strict. Maybe we’ll give the floor to American for the moment.

MR TONER: The first question on the U.S. side is David Clark from AFP.

QUESTION: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister, and Mr. Secretary, for holding this event today. Mr. Secretary, in July the State Department gave jailed activist Azimjon Askarov its Human Rights Defender Award. In response, Mr. Foreign Minister, your office accused the United States of supporting a figure you regard as a threat to your country’s stability. Mr. Secretary, do you believe that Kyrgyzstan exaggerates threats it faces to justify authoritarian security policies? And Mr. Minister, do you believe the United States respects your country’s security?

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, let me begin by answering the question by also answering the question to my – to Erlan. Of course the United States has great respect for the security of the Kyrgyz Republic. We have great respect for the democracy that the Kyrgyz Republic is committed to and is building and working hard in a difficult neighborhood to grow. And we understand the complications and challenges of doing so.

Every year the United States State Department singles out individuals for an award with respect to work on human rights issues. And we are aware, very aware that this particular award created some concern within the government and here in the Kyrgyz Republic. And I want to assure everybody that this award was given for a lifetime of work on human rights, not with respect to one event or something that may have transpired. And unfortunately, it got wrapped up in interpretations regarding one or two particular events, and I think was misinterpreted as to what it meant.

The United States did not mean, nor did we intend to, nor did we interfere with the security interests of the Kyrgyz Republic, nor would we. But we were honoring a lifetime of achievement. And I regret that it did result in some concerns. We have discussed that very frankly, very openly. And all of us want to move on, understanding that our country certainly is founded on our fundamental commitment to and values regarding individual rights – the right of speech of assembly, of protest, of human rights, basically. And we’re always going to speak to them. But we want to do so in a way that obviously encourages people’s understanding of exactly what we’re saying and meaning in a particular award. The lifetime work of this particular individual is what was being honored, and it certainly was not intended to somehow interfere with any judgments with respect to one particular event or incident – which I am not speaking to now, but simply reaffirming that our department will continue to stand up for and speak for human rights on a global basis. Because that’s part of what defines the United States of America.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDAEV: (Via interpreter) Yes. The question which you rose, it was a part of the negotiation, part of the discussion we had with the Secretary of State. We once again made clear our position. We obviously paid attention to the explanation, to information which was given to us from the excellency – State – Secretary of State, Mr. Kerry. But I just want to remind that interethnic peace, stability, and equality in a country counts the most. From this angle we judge, we oversee all situation.

Talking about file of Mr. Azimjon Askarov, there were a lot of things written, said about him. The higher court of Kyrgyz Republic convicted this man. He made a crime. But again, transparently, openly we discussed this question. We decided we will come back to this question again, but now we must move forward. That’s important.

Please, mass media journalists, feel free to ask your questions.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Interfax Agency, thank you. Good afternoon. I have a question to both parties. How do you see further development of relationship between countries? What will be the priority? Paying attention to the denunciation of agreement between Kyrgyz Republic and United States of America. Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, this was really a part of our discussion today. We have – as I said, we have great respect for the Kyrgyz Republic’s journey towards democracy. And we now have 24 years of recognition of the independence and sovereignty of the Kyrgyz Republic. Over those 24 years, the United States has provided more than $2 billion in terms of some of our work on economic programs, on health programs, on education, different things that we do. We want to grow that. We want to do better. In addition to that, we had a relationship for a period of time with respect to our cooperation at the Manas air base facility in terms of Afghanistan. While that ended, we don’t – we’re not sitting here in any state of resentment. We understand it was a short term. It was never meant to be a permanent facility. The Kyrgyz Republic has strong interest in the stability of Afghanistan, continues to contribute to security challenges and issues. We agreed we need to work through some of those issues. And we’re going to work on them.

We think there are things we could do in the economic sphere, but it will require some adjustment to the current laws that apply to our assistance, and we’re going to work on that. We have a working group which we’ve agreed we’ll continue to pursue ways in which to deal with some of the challenges in that economic relationship. We believe very strongly that the politics of this region do not need to be dominated by choosing between China, between Russia, between the United States, between blocs of traders, but rather, this is the 21st century. And it’s a different time. And all of us have an interest in being able to trade across lines in all directions. Excuse me. That’s what we have negotiated recently with the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. And so we urge people to think differently in how we can grow these relationships in ways that are not reduced to zero-sum choices. And we’re going to work very hard through the working group and otherwise to expand the ways in which we can cooperate in order to help sustain the democratic instincts and desires of the people of the Kyrgyz Republic, and to strengthen our economic relationship in doing so.

We also need to complete a defense cooperation agreement at some point in time, and I hope it will be possible to do that.

So these are the things we focused on. There’s a lot of work to be done. And I’m very pleased with the meetings we had in which we all committed to try to make progress on those areas.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDEAV: (Via interpreter) Thank you very much for your questions, and just to continue in connection with the first question, any and every country has its own approaches, its own approach to different issues, different points. And in spite of (inaudible) denunciation of agreement, we still have all opportunities to move forward. We have quite good legislation in place, agreements, so one agreement cannot be a blocking point for developing our relationship. That’s what we agreed with the Secretary of State.

We also agreed that we will do the roadmap of further development of our relationship in all sectors, in all spheres, and there are no exemptions. There are no spheres where we can’t cooperate. We will cooperate bilaterally everywhere, starting from political cooperation, humanitarian. We agreed to deepen our economical commercial relationship. We will continue our dialogue related to international policies about regional security, stability. As the Secretary of State said that between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and State Department we establish the working group, and that will be the task of this working group. They will both evaluate and develop so the agenda is full of development. We have a quite big optimism about that.

MR TONER: The second question on the U.S. side is Brad Klapper from AP.

QUESTION: Yes, thank you. Mr. Secretary, I wanted to follow up on yesterday’s events. What changed that led the U.S. to order the deployment of Special Operations Forces to Syria, and might the U.S. augment that force further in the future? And how do you allay fears among Americans that the United States isn’t being drawn deeper and deeper into Syria’s conflict?

And then just for you, Mr. Foreign Minister, we’ve seen reports of Kyrgyzstan calling the U.S. airstrikes in Syria ineffective while being more praiseworthy of the Russian efforts. What do you think about the new U.S. military course of action? Thank you.

SECRETARY KERRY: Well, thank you, Brad. Let me begin the answer by making it crystal clear that the United States of America and more than 65 countries have joined together in a coalition deeply committed to defeating Daesh/ISIL and eliminating the threat that it presents. Now, make no mistake, ISIL is a threat to every nation in the region that it is currently headquartered in, in Syria and Iraq, and it is a threat way beyond, trying to reach its tentacles into Asia, Central Asia, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Africa, Libya.

And anybody in the world who doesn’t believe that this is a threat in the long term to almost everybody’s way of life is not watching closely. ISIL is the modern personification of evil. It destroys people because of who they are, because of what they believe. It makes slaves out of women. It licenses rape as a matter of life, not just as an instrument of war. It takes an 83-year-old professor who has spent a lifetime dedicating himself to preserving history and culture, and chops his head off in a square and then destroys the ancient Roman arch that is representative of Palmyra and of that culture and history.

I could go on and on. ISIL is a destroyer and it is threatening to take actions against America, Canada, Mexico, against countries all around the world. So ISIL is a modern threat that we have to respond to. And President Obama has made a very straightforward and simple decision entirely in keeping with his originally stated policy that we must defeat and destroy Daesh. It is not a decision to enter into Syria’s civil war. It is not an action or a choice focused on Assad. It is focused exclusively on Daesh and on augmenting our ability to be able to more rapidly attack Daesh and do a better job of eliminating Daesh and its influence in that region.

So I can’t predict what the future will bring when our policy is to destroy Daesh, to fight back against this evil. But I do think the President has made a judgment that I completely advocated for and concur in. It is the right judgment to take on Daesh additionally and to bring other nations along in this fight. And every nation in the world will benefit and every nation in the world, frankly, has a responsibility to step up and be part of this one way or the other. From the very beginning, President Obama has said there is something for every nation to do – prevent foreign fighters from joining this fight. There are people from the Kyrgyz Republic who are in Syria fighting this fight. So there’s a responsibility here to be part of this effort. There’s a responsibility to stop money from flowing. There’s a responsibility to help make sure that we counter the lies and the distortion of a great religion, Islam, that is being presented by Daesh.

So President Obama has upped our ability to be able to engage in this fight, and I welcome that decision. I think it’s the right decision and I think it will have a positive impact on what we are doing.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDAEV: (Via interpreter) The representative of mass media, please I want to remind you, name your agency and your name.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Mazlan Sadykov, Information AKIpress. During the meeting with – my question to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. During the meeting between the Secretary of State and the president of Kyrgyz Republic, any questions were about the influence of ISIL in the world and Central Asia, and what were answers about that?

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDAEV: (Via interpreter) Please, one question if possible, because we decided to do it this way. If you allow me, I will start from ISIL role in Afghanistan and the region. Yes, and that we together with the Secretary of State, I didn’t before mention that we were discussing different points of our agenda, including the international safety, regional safety, and situation in Afghanistan has interest for both of our countries talking about combatting terrorism, talking about global fight with terrorism. So no doubt that both we, United States of America, and other states are concerned about the situation on the north of Afghanistan and increasing role of so-called Islamic State, ISIL we say.

So we obviously showed our concern and we articulated possible actions we may have. You probably know that in Samarkand tomorrow there will be meeting Central Asia, United States of America, Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be present, and so this topic, this question, will be discussed as well. No efforts of one country will be enough to deal with it – only complex approach, complex approach of all states from the region or countries who are interested in success. And we see that the recent decision from United States of America to finish, to deal, to eliminate threats of ISIL wherever they are present.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.)

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDYLDAEV: The representative of mass media --

SECRETARY KERRY: Thank you. We all finished? Thank you very much. Thank you all very much. Appreciate it.