Assistant Secretary Blake: Thank you very much, and I’m delighted to be back here in Bishkek. I was very pleased to participate in the second Annual Bilateral Consultations and I want to take this opportunity to thank Deputy Foreign Minister Otorbayev for his leadership and for his very strong partnership.
I also had the opportunity yesterday to meet with his Excellency President Atambayev, Prime Minister Satybaldiyev, and First Deputy Prime Minister Otorbaev.
We have had productive discussions about the broadening scope of bilateral relations between the U.S. and the Kyrgyz Republic as well as about the transitions in Afghanistan and their impact on the Kyrgyz Republic and Central Asia.
I also expressed our strong appreciation for the support the Kyrgyz Republic government has provided to regional security, including its support for the Transit Center at Manas.
I welcomed the Kyrgyz Republic’s work to advance regional economic integration through important projects such as the transport corridors of the Central Asia Regional Economic Cooperation Program, as well as the CASA 1000 project; its embrace of an open trading system; and its accession to the WTO.
We also discussed a wide range of U.S. assistance programs to the Kyrgyz Republic which include more than $40 million over the last year and more than $1.3 billion since 1992. These totals do not include the considerable economic impact of the Transit Center at Manas which contributed approximately $200 million to the Kyrgyz economy last year alone.
Finally, we had a productive discussion on U.S. support for the Kyrgyz Republic’s democracy, human rights, rule of law and anticorruption efforts. The Kyrgyz Republic’s democracy is a model for the region. It has taken important steps to ensure an inclusive political process whereby civil society and business organizations provide their input on draft laws and government action plans. I urged the government to make progress on issues related to the 2010 violence in southern Kyrgyzstan and I welcomed the announcement of a new national strategy on inter-ethnic relations.
I also want to say that I was privileged to attend a lunch yesterday hosted by Ambassador Spratlen in which we had the opportunity to meet with civil society representatives.
Finally, I just want to take this opportunity to thank Ambassador Spratlen and her great team for the great work that they continue to do to represent the United States in this very important country for the United States.
We would be very glad to take whatever questions you have.
Question: [Through Interpreter]. The question is that maybe you know some experiences in the past from other countries within the United States or outside [inaudible] total success in cases where [inaudible] violence more or less was addressed and results.
Assistant Secretary Blake: I would say that every single case is different so you don’t want to try to apply a cookie-cutter approach to ethnic reconciliation. As I said, we welcomed the President’s efforts to establish an action plan on inter-ethnic issues, but we also talked about the importance of ensuring economic opportunity for not only the citizens of the south but also for all the citizens of the Kyrgyz Republic. And we also talked about the importance of justice and accountability for the crimes that were committed in the course of the June 2010 violence.
Question: [Through Interpreter]. Associated Press, [inaudible]. The first question, what kind of steps the United States has suggested to the Kyrgyz Republic regarding following the agreement term of [inaudible]? Second question, would U.S. join this effort to establish a logistical hub in the place of the Transit Center after 2014?
Assistant Secretary Blake: First of all, I expressed our appreciation to President Atambayev and to the Deputy Foreign Minister for the Kyrgyz Republic’s continued hosting of the Manas Transit Center, which is an important logistics and transportation hub which supports international efforts to establish a stable, prosperous and secure Afghanistan in a stable, secure and prosperous region.
We are engaged in discussions now with the Kyrgyz Republic about the future of the Transit Center, but I don’t want to speculate about the outcome of such discussions. We understand the President’s desire to establish a commercial and logistics hub at Manas and we’ve supported that effort and have given some advice about that.
Question: [Through Interpreter]. President Atambayev ordered [inaudible] 2014 [inaudible] Manas International Airport, and [inaudible] that Kazakhstan is willing to provide the airport [inaudible] for the French Republic to use it to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan. So the question is that will the United States be more active in seeing alternative ways to use it for withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The second question is that there was talks that in south Kyrgyzstan there will be training facility open. Do you have anything on that? Any focus on that?
Assistant Secretary Blake: First of all with respect to your question about Manas, as you know, President Karzai visited with President Obama last week. They described the process that is underway now toward a negotiated Bilateral Security Agreement between the United States and Afghanistan that will help to determine the number of troops that the United States might keep on the ground in Afghanistan after 2014. Once those important decisions are made, then we’ll be in a better position to plan for ourselves what kind of facilities we might need either in Afghanistan or in the wider region. Again, I don’t want to speculate on the future of what those might be.
As to your second question, that didn’t come up today in our conversations.